Changes will benefit new and existing members

Posted 23 August 2023

We are pleased to announce a suite of enhancements to UniSaver. The changes to the rules set out in our trust deed will make the scheme easier to understand especially for new staff joining the scheme. They will also deliver tangible benefits for existing members. This article explains what we’ve changed and why.

Greater flexibility for fixed-term staff to participate

Until now, participation in UniSaver for fixed-term staff has been effectively limited to those on rolling fixed-term contracts of 2 years or more. With the support of the universities, we’ve changed the definition of fixed-term employment to be more accommodating. You will now be able to join or rejoin if any of the following apply:

  • You have 9 months or more remaining of your employment term.
  • You have been employed by any participating employer for at least 12 of the past 18 months and have 6 months or more remaining of your employment term.
  • You are an existing member who is subsequently re-employed on a fixed-term contract of any duration.

The changes will enable participation in a wider range of scenarios – perhaps you’re a retained member who subsequently picks up a short-term contract or a permanent employee who leaves one participating employer to take up a fixed-term role at another. It will be of particular benefit to academic staff on contracts tied to research funding employed on a series of contiguous or near contiguous contracts.

Retained members rejoining as contributing members

From now on, retained members who rejoin as contributing members will have continued access to any retained benefits in their standard accounts. These funds will be ring-fenced so you can withdraw some or all of the funds if you need to. New contributions will be subject to the withdrawal rules that apply to contributing members. Any balances in your locked accounts are subject to KiwiSaver rules. Remember, if you rejoin as a fixed-term employee, you will only be able to contribute to the locked section. This is explained on the website in the section on retained membership.

New housing benefit

The new subsequent home withdrawal will be of particular benefit to members who wish to buy their former partner out of the family home following a relationship breakdown. Until now, the only way to access funds to help settle a division of relationship property has been via a court order, which is an expensive process and adds to an already stressful situation. The benefit can be used more generally if you are forced to buy out someone else’s interest in your home or buy a subsequent home and are likely to suffer financial hardship as a result. It can also be used to access funds if you are behind in your mortgage payments and facing an imminent mortgagee sale. This benefit only provides access to funds in the standard section. Funds in the locked section are still subject to KiwiSaver rules. It is not an automatic benefit, and applications must be approved by the trustee.

In-service withdrawals from age 65

Until now, contributing members have been able to withdraw funds from their locked accounts from age 65 but not from their standard accounts. This meant their standard account balances were effectively locked in until they left service. With more people working past age 65, we felt it was time to address this anomaly. From today, contributing members aged 65 or over have access to all their funds.

One category of membership for new members

This trust deed change won’t affect existing members but will simplify the rules for new members. Until now, we have had two membership categories – category A membership where member contributions are subsidised by the employer and category B membership where the employer generally doesn’t make contributions. From today, staff simply join as a member. If their employer isn’t required to make employer contributions – for example, because they are already contributing to another scheme on the member’s behalf – the member is required to make a minimum contribution of 4%.