The extent to which severe disablement is not permanent has been measured by Sunsuper in a survey of TPD recipients.

The fund quizzed 330 TPD claimants aged 41-60 years old on their lifestyles five years after their claims had been paid.

It found 19 per cent had since found part-time work, 3 per cent had returned to full-time work, while a further 14 per cent were looking for work. Among those who had returned to work 82 per cent had done so within two to three years.

Furthermore, 66 per cent of all claimants wanted assistance in finding a new job and 69 per cent wanted help in retraining.

Of the sample, 60 per cent had claimed TPD for a physical injury, 13 per cent for a mental illness, 11 per cent for a nervous condition and the rest for more general health conditions such as heart disease.

Explaining the findings at the Group Insurance Summit, Wanda Britton, head of product at Sunsuper, said she suspected the 19 per cent that had returned to work was a conservative estimate for all claimants as the 41-60 year old age group would have a lower likelihood of returning to work than younger claimants.

Furthermore, there were 660 other claimants Sunsuper had phoned on multiple occasions at home during the working day, which it had not been able to contact.

Britton described the figures as outstanding and said they would inform future product design.

“We are masters of our own destiny with this data and we can design the cover we really need,” she said.

However, she saw the key knowledge gain as the service levels Sunsuper would offer insurance claimants and how employers could help on early intervention.

Britton spoke on a session entitled ‘Innovation in product design’ which also featured Jenny Oliver, general manager, acquisition services at TAL.

Oliver saw the research carried out by Sunsuper as part of a trend of better data acquisition that would transform the definitions of products, but would also keep the industry one step ahead of consumers.

“We will be held more accountable by members who do research and find that they could get a better deal elsewhere,” warned Oliver.