Embassy workers fight Spanish government over super payments

Date: Apr 28, 2017

A woman who has been left permanently disabled due to cancer has not been able to access key insurance cover due to the Spanish government failing to pay her superannuation.

Miren Itziar Urbieta previously worked for the Spanish consulate in Melbourne for 18 years until 2011, but she claims the European country hasn't paid a cent in super contributions.

Her lawyers argued that this oversight has left her unable to make a total and permanent disability (TPD) claim via her VicSuper fund, despite the fact she has tonsil cancer and may not ever return to work.

She is not alone; a former Canberra embassy worker said the Spanish government betrayed her by refusing to give her 12 years' worth of superannuation payments.

Esperanza Poveda worked as a secretary for the Spanish Embassy in the ACT capital for two separate stints between 1986 and 1998 and from 2004 to 2014.

While the Spanish government has been forced to pay her super for the second period of work due to an Australian Taxation Office order, the first lot of payments are outstanding.

TPD claims and superannuation

The women's cases were reported in the Canberra Times, with Ms Urbieta seeking compensation of $131,000, which comprises $54,000 in super payments, $15,000 for TPD benefits and $62,000 in penalty interest.

TPD cover provides essential financial support for people who suffer permanent disabilities and are unable to return to employment, whether that's in their previous job or any role at all.

Recent figures from SuperRatings, published in the Australian Financial Review, showed that around one-third of super funds pay out on between 91 and 100 per cent of TPD claims. 

"I feel furious because they think they can do whatever they want, like they do in Spain, and they think they can do the same thing here," Ms Poveda told Fairfax Media.

"I think it's time for the Australian authorities to say that's enough and you have to obey the Australian law."

Nevertheless, the Spanish government said it would fight the claims, adding that both women were receiving social security benefits in Spain, meaning they aren't entitled to compensation under the Australian system.

"The former employees opted expressly to be under the coverage of the Spanish social security. Their current claim implies a double dipping situation prohibited by law," a spokesperson for the Spanish Embassy claimed.

The women's lawyers described the situation as "absurd" because both plaintiffs resided in and were domiciled in Australia.

Have you been rejected for a TPD claim? Please get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

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