Can you return to work after receiving a TPD payout?

Quick answer

Generally speaking, you cannot return to work after a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) payout. However, there are a few exceptional circumstances where you may be able to work again.

The most common way is finding a new job outside your education, experience and training. You may also be entitled to return to work if your condition unexpectedly improves or if the injury still affects aspects of your day-to-day life. Your exact options depend on the terms of your policy.

It’s crucial you do not return to work without a valid reason, as this can put your compensation at risk. To find out what you’re entitled to, consult your policy or speak to one of our specialist TPD lawyers today.

In depth answer

After a successful TPD claim, there are only a few circumstances where you may legally return to work, including:

  1. The work is outside your education, training and experience.
  2. Your condition unexpectedly improves.
  3. You still need help with everyday tasks like showering and cleaning your house.

The options available depend on many factors, including what type of super policy you have and the terms of that policy. 

What type of policy do I have?

‘Own occupation’ policies

Under an ‘own occupation’ policy, you can claim TPD if you’re injured and unlikely to return to your job or any job within your education, training and experience.

‘Any occupation’ policies

Under an ‘any occupation’ policy, you may generally only claim TPD if you’re unlikely to work again.

Circumstance 1: The work is outside your education, training and experience

This is the most common way to return to work after a TPD payout and — as the name suggests — involves finding a new job beyond your current education, training and work experience.

This usually means you’ll retrain for a job that fits your new physical and mental capacity. Take, for example, a furniture removalist who injured his back. Depending on his policy, he may be able to claim TPD and retrain for a less physically-demanding job, such as office administration.

If you have an ‘own occupation’ policy, you’re more likely to have an ‘education, training and experience’ clause included. However, since all policies are different, it’s crucial to check your specific terms before resuming work.

Circumstance 2: Your condition unexpectedly improves

If your condition unexpectedly improves, you may be entitled to return to work under either an ‘own occupation’ or an ‘any occupation’ policy.

This may occur through medical advancements, rehabilitation or other treatments. However your condition improves, it’s vital that medical experts did not anticipate your improvement when you made your TPD claim.

It’s important to know that many policies do not allow you to return to work even if your condition unexpectedly improves. To find out if you’re eligible, check the details of your super policy. 

Circumstance 3: You still need help with everyday tasks

In TPD policies, everyday tasks are called ‘Activities of Daily Living’ (ADL). These include walking, bathing, dressing, feeding yourself, and cleaning your house. If your condition has improved, but you’re still unable to carry out some ADL, you may be eligible to return to work.

You must show that you are still unable to do at least 2 of the ADL listed on your TPD claim.

Not all policies allow a return to work based on ADL, so check your policy before resuming work.

Will I have to pay my compensation back?

If you return to work legally, chances are you won’t need to repay your lump sum TPD compensation.

However, there are a few situations where the insurer may demand repayment after you resume work. These include:

  • Not meeting all the return-to-work terms in your TPD policy.
  • Making a fraudulent claim, meaning the information you provided was not honest and accurate.

This is by no means a complete list. There are many reasons your insurer may demand repayment, and it’s important to understand that resuming work after a TPD claim always carries this risk.

It’s also worth noting that some insurers are moving toward monthly or yearly TPD payments. If your TPD compensation is paid in instalments, your insurer may withhold future payments after you return to work. This depends on the specifics of your policy and how much you earn in your new role.

What should I do before returning to work?

It’s crucial to consult with both a lawyer and a doctor before returning to work. Resuming work without a valid reason can jeopardise your hard-won TPD compensation and put your financial future at risk.

Since every policy differs, we offer free TPD consultations for injured workers. Our specialist team will investigate your policy, outline your options and ensure you meet the return-to-work requirements.

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