Guide for plan members

College 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 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 College Pension Plan and therefore not accumulating pensionable or contributory 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 plan member when you took the leave
  • You buy the entire leave period, unless the purchase makes your service exceed 12 months in a calendar year
  • You apply to buy service for the leave within five years of the end of your leave or 30 days after you end your job with the employer that granted the leave, 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 employee and employer contribution rates:

  • Maternity (pregnancy)
  • Parental or adoption
  • Family responsibility
  • Bereavement
  • 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 that does not fall into the leave categories shown above, you are responsible for paying both the employee and employer shares.

Lifetime maximums

Income Tax Act rules allow you to buy service for leaves up to the following lifetime maximums:

  • Five cumulative years of general leaves
  • Three cumulative years of maternity, parental or adoption leaves

If you take off more than three years total for maternity, parental or adoption leaves, you can purchase the portion above the three-year maximum as a general leave; this portion will count toward the general-leave maximum of five years.

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 within 30 days of leaving your job with the employer that granted the leave. We will calculate the cost for you to buy this service once your employer confirms your last day of work.

Buying service for a period of reduced pay

If you worked for less than your full assignment for a period of time, you may be able to buy the difference between your normal, full assignment and the amount you actually worked.

If you normally work less than 100 per cent full time, you can only buy enough service to bring you up to the amount of your normal full assignment.

To buy service for a period of reduced pay, you must have:

  • Been employed by your employer for three years before the period of reduced pay
  • Continued working for the employer during the period of reduced pay

Contact your employer if this applies to you, and you are interested in buying service for a period of reduced pay.

How to transfer service between public sector pension plans

If you leave your job, you may be able to transfer your pensionable and contributory 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 two kinds of service:

  • Pensionable service,   which may increase the value of your pension
  • 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, particularly if:

  • The total value of the two separate pensions is more than the value of the 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.

Differences in pension service value between plans

The service you transfer from another plan may not have equal value in BC's College Pension Plan, and vice versa, due to:

  • Different pension benefit formulas in each plan
  • Salary differences between your old and new jobs

As a result, the service you receive credit for when you transfer service may not equal the service you accumulated while you were working.

If the value of the service you are transferring from your original plan is less than the cost of buying the same service in the new plan, there is a service shortfall. The potential for a service shortfall exists each time you transfer service between public sector pension plans, even if you are returning to a plan you previously belonged to.

If you're transferring service to the College Pension Plan and there is a service shortfall, you can pay for the shortfall and be credited with full service. You must pay for any 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 amount of service transferred.

When you transfer service to the College Pension Plan from another plan, you will receive matching amounts of contributory service and pensionable service.

How transferring service affects your pension

If you transfer service from your former pension plan to the College 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 only the College Pension Plan
  • The retirement age specified by the College Pension Plan

What is the process?

If you're leaving an employer that participates in the College Pension Plan and would like to transfer your service to another plan that has an agreement with us, contact the new plan.

If you've joined the College 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. You can then use this information to decide whether you want to transfer service to the College Pension Plan and collect a single pension when you retire, or collect two separate pensions.

There are deadlines for transferring service; contact us as soon as possible so we can confirm your eligibility and provide you with an estimate.

Other considerations

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 about transferring eligible service between plans.

Deciding not to transfer service

If you decide not to transfer your service from one pension plan to another, when you retire you will be eligible to receive a separate pension from each plan in which you have pensionable service.

The pension you earn in any other plan will not affect the pension you earn with the College Pension Plan.

How to buy arrears

Arrears are a period when you and your employer should have contributed to BC's College 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 you were enrolled in the plan, but your employer did not deduct and forward the required contributions to the plan on your behalf.

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.

You may have payroll arrears if your employer did not deduct pension contributions from your paycheque, even though 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.  

Your current employer, former employer or the pension plan may identify a period of arrears.

  • If enrolment arrears are identified, we will send you and your employer a statement of cost. Your employer is required to immediately pay their share. You may choose whether to pay for your portion. If you choose to do so, you must apply to buy arrears by the deadline.
  • If payroll arrears are identified, the employer you worked for during the arrears period will be billed for the whole cost. Your employer will ask you to pay the employee portion of the cost directly to them.

You may wish to pay for an arrears period as soon as possible, because the cost is based on your salary and contribution rate at the time you are applying to buy arrears. If your salary or contribution rates increases, it may cost you more to buy arrears.

Disability benefits

If you become totally and permanently disabled before age 65, you may be eligible for a disability benefit from BC's College Pension Plan. If you remain disabled at age 65, you will be paid a disability benefit for your lifetime. This replaces any termination benefits or regular pension you would normally receive as a plan member.

Are you eligible?

To be eligible for a disability benefit, you must:

  • Be under age 65
  • Have at least two years of contributory service  
  • End your employment
  • Not be eligible to receive benefits from a group disability plan approved by the College Pension Plan
  • Not have accepted a lump-sum payment to settle a group disability plan claim (if you have accepted a lump-sum payment, you may be entitled to termination benefits or a regular pension)

If you are age 55 or older, you may be eligible to apply for a regular pension. If you have 35 years of contributory service, contact the plan to discuss your options.

How do you qualify?

You must apply in writing to the plan for a disability benefit by the later of:

  • Two years from the date of your last contribution to the plan
  • Two years from the last day you received a benefit payment from a group disability plan

If you were denied long-term disability benefits and are appealing that decision, you still need to apply within the two-year limit.

Once you apply, in order to qualify, both your doctor and a doctor appointed by the plan must agree you are totally and permanently disabled.

How is a disability benefit calculated?

We calculate disability benefits the same way we calculate regular pensions, except:

  • There is no bridge benefit  
  • Disability benefits are never reduced because of your age or years of service

For disability benefits (just like regular pensions):

  • The calculation is based on your years of pensionable service and the average of your five highest years of salary
  • You are able to choose from the same pension options and guarantees
  • The amount of your disability benefit may increase annually to reflect changes in the cost of living (but this is not guaranteed)
  • Depending on the pension option you selected when you applied for your disability benefit, your spouse or beneficiary(ies) may be eligible to receive a pension benefit upon your death

What happens if you are no longer disabled?

If you are no longer disabled, we will stop paying you your disability benefit.

If you return to work for an employer participating in the plan, you and your employer will resume making pension contributions to the plan. When you retire, you will be eligible for a regular pension.

If you do not return to work, or you return to work for an employer that does not participate in the plan, contact the plan to learn about your pension options.

If you are eligible for a regular pension or termination benefit, we will calculate it using your total years of service:

  • You will not receive service for the period you were receiving the disability benefit
  • There is no adjustment for the disability benefit that was already paid

Why would you take a disability benefit rather than a regular pension?

If you become disabled after your earliest retirement age but before you turn 65, 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.