Guide for plan members
Public Service Pension Plan is committed to helping you make the most of your pension. This guide is a provincial requirement. Please use the links at right to explore the topics most relevant to you.
Buying service for a leave of absence
During your career, you might take a leave from work – such as a maternity, parental, education or general leave.
A leave of absence will affect your pension. During an unpaid or partially paid leave, you are not making your regular contributions to BC’s Public Service Pension Plan and therefore not accumulating pensionable service.
We calculate your pension using a formula based on the average of your five highest years of salary and your years of pensionable service. The more years of pensionable service you have, the greater your pension will be when you retire.
Leave of absence with partial pay
During a leave with partial pay, your pension contributions and pensionable service are adjusted to your salary. For example, if you receive half your regular pay during a leave, you will make half your regular pension contributions and accumulate half your regular pensionable service.
You may be eligible to increase your pensionable service by buying the difference between your leave of absence with partial pay and your normal assignment.
Unpaid leave of absence
During an unpaid leave, you do not contribute to the pension plan or accumulate any pensionable or contributory service.
However, you may be able to buy service for the time you took off work on an approved unpaid leave. You can buy service for an approved unpaid leave if:
- You were an active member when you took the leave
- You buy the entire leave period, unless the purchase makes your service exceed 35 years in total or 12 months in a calendar year
- You apply to buy service for the leave within five years of the end of your leave or before you end your job with an employer participating in the plan, whichever comes first
Will my employer share the costs of buying service?
Your employer will pay its share of the cost for leaves covered under the Employment Standards Act, and you must pay your share. If you buy service for the following leaves, you and your employer will share the cost based on current contribution rates:
- Family responsibility
- Compassionate care
- Jury duty
- Disappearance of child
- Death of child
- Critical illness or injury leave
- Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence
If you are buying service for a general leave:
- Your employer will pay its share if the leave is under 30 calendar days
- You are responsible for paying both the employee and employer share if the leave is more than 30 calendar days
Income Tax Act rules allow you to buy the following lifetime maximums:
- Five cumulative years of general leaves
- Three cumulative years of maternity, parental or adoption leaves
Not returning to work after a leave
If you decide not to return to work after a leave and want to buy the service, you must apply while still on leave. We will calculate the cost for you to buy this service once your employer confirms your last day of work.
Buying non-contributory service
You may be able to increase your future pension by buying non-contributory service for a period when you worked for an employer participating in BC’s Public Sector Pension Plan but did not make pension contributions.
This could be a period when you were on probation or worked as a term, contract or auxiliary employee before joining the plan.
However, you cannot buy non-contributory service if you were eligible to join the plan but signed a waiver choosing not to join on or after April 1, 2000.Buying non-contributory service increases the pensionable service that counts toward your pension. This may increase the monthly pension you receive when you retire or allow you to retire earlier.
Your employer will pay the employer portion of the total cost if:
- An employee/employer relationship existed during the period when you were not contributing to the plan
- You did not receive compensation in place of contributions to a registered pension plan
In all other cases, you are responsible for paying the entire cost.
The application deadline is five years from when you began contributing to the plan or before you leave your job, whichever comes first.
How to transfer service between public sector pension plans
If you leave your job, you may be able to transfer your service from your original pension plan to your new employer’s pension plan. You can do this if the two pension plans have a transfer agreement.
Things to think about when transferring service
Transferring service may allow you to:
- Increase your pensionable service and the value of your pension
- Increase your contributory service, which may allow you to retire earlier with an unreduced pension
However, it’s not always to your financial advantage to transfer service. It may be better to collect two separate pensions rather than transferring your service and collecting a single pension. This could be the case if:
- The total of the two separate pensions is more than a single pension after a transfer
- You can collect a pension earlier under your former plan
It's a good idea to talk with an independent financial adviser to help you decide if transferring service is a good choice for you.
Deciding not to transfer service
If you decide not to transfer your service from one pension plan to another, when you retire, you may receive a separate pension from each plan.
The pension you earn in any other plan will not affect the pension you earn with BC's Public Service Pension Plan.
Differences in pension service value between plans
The service you transfer from another plan may not have equal value in the Public Service Pension Plan, and vice versa. The reasons for this include different pension benefit formulas in each plan and salary differences between your old and new jobs. This means, when you transfer service between plans, the service you are credited for may not equal the service you accumulated while you were working.
If the value of the service transferred is less than the cost of buying the same service in the Public Service Pension Plan, there is a service shortfall.
You can pay for this service shortfall and be credited with full service. You must pay for a service shortfall in one lump sum and within a specific period.
If you do not want to pay for the service shortfall, you will be credited with pro-rated pensionable and contributory service based on the service transferred.
When you transfer service to the Public Service Pension Plan from another plan, the amount of contributory service we credit you will match the pensionable service we grant you.
How transferring service affects your pension
If you transfer service from your former pension plan to the Public Service Pension Plan, your eventual pension will be calculated using:
- The combined eligible service from all plans (this may be adjusted if there is a shortfall)
- Your five-year highest average salary from the Public Service Pension Plan
- The retirement age specified by the Public Service Pension Plan
What is the process?
If you're leaving an employer participating in the Public Service Pension Plan and would like to transfer your service to another plan that has an agreement with us, contact the new plan.
If you’re joining the Public Service Pension Plan and would like to transfer your service from your old pension plan, submit the Pension transfer application form. We’ll tell you if you are eligible and let you know how much service we'll credit to you from your former plan.
There are deadlines for transferring service; contact us as soon as possible so we can confirm your eligibility.
If you have a former spouse who is entitled to a share of your pension, the pension will need to be divided before any service can be transferred. Contact us for more information.
There may be tax implications associated with transferring service. You may wish to speak with an independent financial adviser before making your final decision to transfer eligible service between plans.
How to buy arrears
Arrears are a period when you and your employer should have contributed to BC's Public Service Pension Plan, but did not. There are two kinds of arrears: enrolment and payroll.
Enrolment arrears occur when you were not enrolled in the plan, but should have been, and were therefore not contributing to the plan.
Payroll arrears occur when your employer did not deduct and remit the required contributions to the plan when it should have.
Do you have a period of arrears?
You may have enrolment arrears if there was a period when you did not contribute because you were not correctly enrolled in the plan. This will depend on the plan enrolment rules at the time you became eligible to enrol in the plan. Enrolment arrears might also occur if you are working for more than one employer participating in the plan but only contributing based on your employment with one employer.
You may have payroll arrears if your employer did not deduct pension contributions from your paycheque, even if you were correctly enrolled in the plan.
You may want to check your pay stub regularly (especially after a leave) to make sure your pension contributions are being deducted. If you aren't sure whether your employer has made (or is making) contribution payments on your behalf, follow up with your employer.
If you are totally and permanently disabled, you may be eligible for a disability benefit from BC’s Public Service Pension Plan. This pays you a monthly benefit and replaces any termination benefits or retirement pension you would normally receive as a plan member.
Are you eligible?
To be eligible for a disability benefit, you must meet the following requirements:
- You cannot be entitled to long-term disability benefits under the Public Service Long Term Disability Plan or a long-term disability plan approved by BC Pension Corporation.
- You must terminate your employment.
- You must apply in writing to the plan within two years of the date you were last credited with service in the plan. If you were denied long-term disability benefits and are appealing that decision, you still need to apply within the two-year limit.
- You must have at least two years of contributory service and be under age 60 (55 for certain designated public safety occupations) when you apply.
- Both your doctor and a doctor appointed by the plan must agree you are totally and permanently disabled.
- You cannot have accepted a lump-sum payment to settle a long-term disability claim. If you have accepted a lump-sum payment, you may be entitled to termination benefits or a retirement pension.
How does a disability benefit work?
A disability benefit is paid to you if you become totally and permanently disabled before age 60 (55). You will be paid a pension for your lifetime.
If you return to work for an employer that participates in the Public Service Pension Plan, we will stop paying you your disability benefit and you must resume making contributions to the plan. When you retire, you will be eligible for a regular lifetime pension.
Why would you take a disability benefit rather than a regular pension?
If you become disabled after your earliest retirement age but are younger than 60 (55), a disability benefit may provide you with a higher benefit than a regular pension.
The rules for calculating disability benefits are complex. Contact the plan for information or to discuss your individual situation.
Looking for more detail? These links will help you