These questions and answers are provided for general information and guidance only. They are not a substitute for the Rules themselves, and for clarity please check the Rules, or ask the trustees through the MBF office for an answer to your inquiry.
1. What is the MBF (Mutual Benefit Fund)?
The MBF is a mutual fund which provides financial and other assistance and benefits at the discretion of its trustees to members whose earning capacity as an operational air traffic controller has ceased due to the suspension or cancellation, either temporarily or permanently, of his/her medical certificate on medical grounds. It is not an insurance company and does not exist primarily to generate a profit. The MBF has been granted SAD (Sickness, Accident, and Death) status by Inland Revenue, which means it is exempt from tax.
2. Who manages the MBF?
It is administered by between five and eight trustees. Up to five of the trustees are elected from among the members of the MBF, one is appointed by Airways, and two are independent non-member trustees. All the assets and accumulated funds belong to the members, and are vested in the trustees. The trustees deal with the assets and funds according to the MBF's Rules. The trustees take their duties seriously and use the best legal and medical advice. They act on behalf of the members and so their legal liability is limited to the assets of the MBF – they will not be personally liable for their decisions or for any losses or expenses incurred in carrying out their duties (except in cases of criminal negligence or deliberate fault, breach of duty, breach of trust or other criminal or deliberate behaviour).
3. Who can apply to join the MBF?
To be a full member of the MBF you usually are already a financial member of NZALPA. It is a requirement of the NZALPA collective employment agreement that controllers join and remain in the MBF. You must be aged 21 or above but not over 50 years old. You must be an operational air traffic controller. If you have previously been a member and resigned, you may rejoin over age 50 subject to some restrictions. Once you are a member, your membership continues to age 65. Some non-operational controllers are also eligible although there are restrictions. If you are not a financial member of NZALPA you may apply to join the MBF but the conditions of your membership can be subject to conditions that the trustees may decide to impose, such as being charged a levy. You are also then unable to stand for a position as a trustee or vote on matters such as changes to the MBF’s rules or the election of trustees. If a person who is eligible for membership doesn’t apply to join the MBF during the year when they first became eligible for membership of NZALPA, the trustees can decide to accept that controller for membership of the MBF on the basis of reduced financial benefits over the initial years of membership of the MBF. It is important that all join when they start work and not wait until a health problem is more likely.
4. How much does it cost?
Contributions are made by both the members and Airways. The member’s contribution rate is based on your salary, with a maximum of 0.85% of gross salary. The trustees determine the contribution rate each year. Information about the current contribution rate is available by contacting the MBF office. Airways’ contribution to the MBF is set at approximately three times the members’ rate.
5. Is there a maximum and/or minimum cover I can apply for?
No, because members do not apply for “cover”. Membership benefits are a mix of financial and non-financial benefits. Financial benefits can include assistance with rehabilitation expenses, payment of a regular disability benefit and payment of a lump sum capital benefit. All financial benefits are at the discretion of the trustees. Members contribute an amount set by the trustees. This is determined at 1 July each year, and will be no more than 0.85% of the member’s gross salary and no less than 0.085% of a member’s gross salary. Airways also contributes to the MBF on behalf of members. All members have a maximum capital benefit entitlement for which a member pays an annual contribution to the MBF. The trustees determine the maximum capital benefit, which is a maximum of four times a member’s gross salary (excluding “extra” payments such as OJTI/Check allowance, responsibility loading, and overtime etc). If a member becomes entitled to financial benefits from the MBF, these will be calculated on the basis of the member’s capital benefit sum. A disability benefit payment will be a percentage of the member’s capital benefit. The Rules set out how benefits will be calculated. Under the Rules, the capital benefit increases from 30% to 100% (of four times gross salary) over the first five years of membership, and reduces in a linear manner from 100% to 0 between the ages of 57 and 65. There is no “minimum” benefit that a member can apply for.
6. How do I pay my contributions?
Upon acceptance as a member, Airways will automatically deduct your contributions from your fortnightly salary payments and remit them to the MBF.
7. What medical information do I have to provide when I apply to join and who will see this information?
As part of the application you must complete a health declaration. This is very similar to the aviation medical questionnaire. You must fully disclose your medical history as any non-disclosure may affect any claim you may subsequently make.
Information collected on this form will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. It will be seen only by the trustees and the MBF's office staff and those people whom the trustees reasonably consider need to see it, e.g. to seek medical advice about an exclusion. If you make a claim, it might also be seen by a case manager.
8. What is an “exclusion”?
If you declare a medical condition, illness or disability, health concern, or a family history of certain diseases, your membership application will probably be sent to one of the MBF’s medical advisers. The medical adviser will make a recommendation to the trustees whether or not to attach an exclusion to your membership. The trustees will then decide if they will apply such an exclusion to your membership. The trustees also have discretion to remove an exclusion. The trustees will not decline a membership application from a controller who otherwise meets the Rules for membership just because of an exclusion situation. An exclusion means there is most likely no entitlement to a benefit if your medical certificate is suspended because of that specific medical condition. However the trustees may, at their discretion, make limited benefit payments in these circumstances.
9. If I have an exclusion, what happens if my condition improves?
You can ask the trustees to remove the exclusion. The trustees will take medical advice and then reach their decision.
10. What types of illness or injury might entitle me to a benefit from the MBF?
If you lose your medical certificate due to any illness or injury (physical or psychological) you can ask the MBF for assistance. The trustees will then decide if your claim is such that you can get assistance (such as financial assistance, case management assistance or assistance from the trustees). There are a number of matters the trustees will look at, including what the actual illness or injury is, if the illness or injury is solely or principally why you lost your medical certificate and if you have any exclusions, and, if you do, what they mean for your claim. The trustees may also get advice from their medical adviser as to whether your disability is a “classified illness”.
11. What is a “classified illness”?
A “classified illness” means an illness which can’t be diagnosed by objective evidence or which, although it might be capable of diagnosis by objective evidence, hasn’t been. The relevance of having a “classified illness” is that the trustees have a discretion whether or not to pay benefits to a claimant with a classified illness. Where they do exercise discretion in favour of paying benefits, the maximum available capital benefit will be either 20% of the member’s capital benefit where membership has been for less than three years or 50% where membership has been for three years or more. Also, for a classified illness a claimant will not be entitled to a full lump sum capital benefit pay-out. Instead, the claimant receives fortnightly disability benefit payments until either the claimant regains their medical certificate or the capital benefit has been exhausted.
12. What is a “capital benefit”?
The capital benefit is the total sum payment a member may become entitled to from his or her own contributions and Airways' contrbutions to the MBF, if he or she loses his or her medical certificate. This will usually be paid in fortnightly instalments, however in rare cases at the discretion of the trustees it can be paid as a lump sum payment. It is tax free, and it is currently set at four times gross salary.
13. If I am on sick leave or receiving ACC payments, can I also receive MBF payments?
To receive a payment (benefit), you must have lost your medical certificate AND used up all your sick leave. If you are receiving ACC payments, the MBF will “top up” your ACC payments to ensure you are receiving the equivalent of your fortnightly net income.
14. If I lose my medical, will this whole process be activated automatically?
No. You must advise a trustee or the MBF Office ASAP after you become aware of a situation that will affect your medical certificate. Do not assume Airways and/or the CAA will tell the MBF of your medical status.
15. How long do I have to advise the MBF of an event which has caused, or may cause, the suspension of my medical certificate?
You have 90 days from the date of the illness or injury to advise the MBF, in writing, although ideally you should tell the MBF as soon as possible.
16. What happens if I make a claim on the MBF, regain my medical certificate, then lose it again for the same illness or injury?
You can make another claim. If it is for the same illness or injury, the trustees may decide it is a continuation of the original illness or injury and therefore your capital benefit would be adjusted accordingly. A new condition would be considered a new claim. Should a member receive a total capital benefit payout, his or her membership automatically ends. If he or she subsequently becomes eligible for a medical certificate and is employed as an operational air traffic controller, renewed membership would be at the discretion of the trustees.
17. Does the MBF provide health and life insurance?
No. The MBF is not an insurance company; it is a discretionary mutual fund. It is there to provide financial and other assistance and benefits to its members. It does not provide death cover. However the trustees do have limited discretion to make payments where a member dies after establishing an entitlement to a benefit or in some hardships or compassionate situations where a member dies without having established an entitlement to a benefit and the trustees are satisfied that the member’s medical condition was such that a claim could have been established had the member survived. (Death cover is provided through the Airways Superannuation Plan (contact Airways for further details on this) and also available through the NZALPA Group Life Insurance Plan.)
18. Does the MBF do anything else apart from financial support?
Yes. Non-financial support is a key purpose of the MBF and is inherent in it being a mutual fund. Losing your ability to work as a controller can be a very distressing situation. The MBF can provide support, advice and assistance to any members in this situation. Our trustees are experienced in dealing with this, and are very willing and able to help. Please contact any of them, or the Office, for help.
19. How do I join the MBF?
Go to “Contact Us” on this website for further details and an application form, or contact a trustee or the MBF Office.
20. How do I contact the MBF?
The MBF office is located in Johnsonville, Wellington.
The office staff can provide general information but advice and decisions are always given and made by the trustees.
To contact the trustees, send your inquiry through the office. Trustees are available to assist at any time.