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
You may be able to increase your future pension by buying service for an approved leave of absence.
Buying service for your leave of absence may increase the monthly pension amount you receive when you retire or get you closer to an unreduced pension.
In most cases, you can buy service for your leave after you return to work. For certain types of leaves (such as maternity, parental/adoption and compassionate care leaves), you can also buy service for your leave by continuing to contribute while you’re away.
Leave of absence with partial pay, top-up or allowance from your employer
During a leave with partial pay, top-up or allowance from your employer, your pension contributions and pensionable service are adjusted. For example, if you receive half your regular pay during a leave, you will be making half your regular pension contributions and accumulating half your regular pensionable service. The amount of service available to buy is the difference between your partial leave and your normal assignment.
Unpaid leave of absence
During an unpaid leave, you do not contribute to the pension plan and you do not accumulate any pensionable or contributory service. However, you may be able to buy service for the time you took off work on an approved leave.
Eligibility for buying service for a leave
You can buy service for an approved leave if you meet the following requirements:
- You were an active plan member before you took the leave
- You apply within five years of the end of the leave or before ending employment with the employer with whom the leave occurred, whichever occurs first
- Buying the leave does not cause you to exceed the limits described below
Limits on buying service for a leave
You can buy service for leaves up to the following maximums:
- 12 months of pensionable service in a calendar year.
- Three years of maternity or parental/adoption leave over your career. If you take off more than three years total for maternity or parental/adoption leaves, you can purchase the portion above the three-year maximum as a general leave.
- Five years of general leaves over your career.
- 35 years of total pensionable service over your career.
Restrictions apply if you want to buy a leave of absence for a period when you contributed to a registered pension plan with any other employer. Contact us for more information.
What the cost will be
The cost to buy service for your leave of absence is based on:
- The number of months of service you want to buy
- Your current full-time gross monthly pensionable salary (or full-time equivalent, if you work part time)
- The current employee and employer contribution rates
Your employer will pay its share of an Employment Standards Act (ESA)–approved leave of absence.
For general leaves:
- Your employer will pay its share if the leave is less than 30 calendar days
- You are responsible for paying both the employee and employer share if the leave is more than 30 calendar days
Estimating the cost of a lump-sum payment
Sign in to My Account and use the personalized purchase cost estimator to find out how much it may cost to purchase your leave as a lump sum.
Estimating the cost of continuous contributions
If you’re planning to make continuous contributions to your pension during an ESA–approved leave, you can estimate your monthly cost by adding together the pension deduction on two biweekly pay stubs.
Additional cost considerations
- Since your payment cost is based on current salary and contribution rates, buying your service earlier may be less expensive
- If you are making continuous contributions, your cost may change slightly month to month with regular salary increases
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.
A period of arrears refers to a time when you and your employer should have been contributing to BC’s Public Service Pension Plan, but weren’t. There are two kinds of arrears: enrolment and payroll.
Enrolment arrears occur when you should have been enrolled in the plan, but were not. Therefore, you were not contributing to the plan.
Payroll arrears occur when you were enrolled in the plan correctly, but your employer did not deduct and forward the required contributions to the plan on your behalf.
When you are enrolled in the plan, you and your employer must both make contributions on your behalf. Your employer is responsible for deducting your contributions from your pay and submitting them to 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.
You, your current employer, your former employer or the pension plan can identify a period of arrears.
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 Service Pension Plan but did not make pension contributions.
For example, this could be when you were on probation or worked as a term, contract or auxiliary employee before joining the plan.
Buying non-contributory service increases the service that counts toward your pension. This may increase the monthly pension payment amount you receive when you retire, or allow you to apply for an unreduced pension earlier.
Cost for non-contributory service
The cost to buy non-contributory service is based on:
- The number of months of service you are eligible to buy
- Your current full-time gross monthly salary (or full-time equivalent, if you work part time)
- The current employee and employer contribution rates
Sign in to My Account and use the purchase cost estimator to get an estimate of the cost.
Your employer will pay its share of the total cost if both of these conditions are met:
- An employee–employer relationship existed during the period when you were not contributing to the plan
- You did not receive compensation instead of contributing to a registered pension plan
In all other cases, you are responsible for paying the entire cost.
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 correctional employees and certain ambulance paramedics) 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 for correctional employees and certain ambulance paramedics). 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 before age 60 (55 for correctional employees and certain ambulance paramedics), 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 for correctional employees and certain ambulance paramedics), 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