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COVID-19 Update: Information for Members

Updated as of September 21, 2021

We have received numerous questions about how COVID-19 is impacting the OMERS Primary Pension Plan (Plan). As a result, we have compiled these Frequently Asked Questions that we hope you will find helpful. Given the continually changing circumstances, we will update this page with new information as it becomes available.

Further, on June 24, 2020, the Sponsors Corporation Board approved three Plan amendments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The information below has been updated to reflect these changes. More information about these Plan amendments can be found on our Plan Change Announcements page.

We have also implemented operational changes to keep our visitors and employees safe while continuing to support members, employers and stakeholders. As a result, we will not be accepting member walk-ins. Our Contact Centre team is working remotely until further notice. We continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. You can find answers to your questions here on omers.com, through our secure member portal myOMERS or by contacting our Contact Centre team. You can also send an email to client@omers.com.

At OMERS, our responsibility to you is clear. We are committed to delivering against our pension promise to over 500,000 members and are taking all the right steps to make sure this happens.


Frequently Asked Member Questions

No. OMERS has not changed the payment date for retiree pensions. We made a promise to pensioners that they would receive a retirement payment from us on the first business day of every month and that has not changed. Pensions will continue to be paid on time. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.

While your pension cheque will still be processed on time, we can’t control how quickly your mail will be delivered to you during the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage all members who currently reside in Canada, the U.S., or the U.K. and receive pension cheques by mail to make the switch to direct deposit through myOMERS or by calling OMERS Member Services. Doing so will give you peace of mind that your pension will be deposited into your bank account by the first business day of every month.

No. Employees who wish to start their pensions are encouraged to review and complete applications in a timely manner. Completed applications should include:

1. Form 143 - Request for an OMERS Plan benefit (from the employer)
2. Your banking information; and
3. A signed election form or signed advanced waiver election form as applicable.

If you have any trouble providing documentation, please contact OMERS Member Services for assistance.

Currently, absences from work are treated differently, with some purchasable and others not.

Absences related to Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies

OMERS has reviewed the Plan provisions regarding leaves in the context of recent amendments and regulations to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the COVID-19 pandemic. Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies (collectively referred to as Emergency Leave) are purchasable for OMERS purposes.

The cost of contributions to purchase an Emergency Leave is generally one times the cost of contributions (with contribution amounts determined using your annual contributory earnings in effect before the leave started).

Pursuant to O. Reg 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave under the ESA (IDEL Regulation), a non-unionized employee’s period of absence resulting from COVID-19 may be deemed to be an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) instead of a temporary layoff. In some cases, this may result in the cost of contributions to purchase the IDEL to be two times the cost of contributions.

Note that an IDEL is also available in other prescribed situations for unionized and non-unionized employees.

See below for additional information.

1. I am a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022:

If you are a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your absence from work may be deemed to be an IDEL under the ESA.

If this is the case, the cost to purchase your leave of absence may be one or two times the cost of contributions (with contribution amounts determined using your annual contributory earnings in effect before the leave started). In most cases, one times the cost of contributions will apply. However, based on certain exemptions under the IDEL Regulation, two times the cost of contributions could apply depending on when your absence started and whether you and your employer were contributing to the OMERS Plan on May 29, 2020.

A leave of absence that is deemed to be an IDEL can be purchased at the applicable cost of contributions when you return from their leave. This is the case for all Emergency Leaves.

2. I am on a temporary layoff that was initiated in 2020 or 2021:

If you were placed on a temporary layoff in 2020 or 2021, your layoff can be purchased at two times the cost of contributions (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave started) when you return from your leave, as long as your employment was not terminated by you or your employer before June 24, 2020.

If you were placed on a temporary layoff that was initiated in 2020, and your employment was subsequently terminated by you or your employer before June 24, 2020 (whether you started to receive a pension, elected a deferred pension or transferred out the commuted value of your pension), you will not have the option to purchase the period of layoff.

If you are a non-union employee that was placed on a temporary layoff that was later deemed to be an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, please see the first scenario above.

3. I am on a temporary layoff that was initiated before 2020 or after 2021:

If you are a member whose temporary layoff was initiated before 2020 or after 2021, the Plan does not provide you with the option to purchase your temporary layoff.

4. I am on an absence related to a reduction in my work hours rather than an absence related to an elimination of my work hours:

Please see How will OMERS administer employee reductions in work hours? below for more information.

Depending on the circumstances of your reduction in work hours, the absence from work may be purchasable for OMERS purposes as either a period of reduced pay or as an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) pursuant to O. Reg 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

See below for additional guidance.

1. I am a member whose hours were reduced before March 1, 2020, but my earnings remained unchanged:

If you are a (CFT) member whose earnings continue at 100%, even if you work fewer hours, your pension will not be impacted, and your employer will continue to deduct OMERS contributions for your credited service.

2. I am a member who has experienced a temporary reduction in my hours before March 1, 2020, or whose hours were reduced for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 (and my earnings were reduced as a result):

You are only impacted by a reduction in your work hours if your pay is also reduced. If this is the case, the period of temporary reduced hours and pay would be reported as an Authorized Leave.

As an Authorized Leave, you can purchase the unworked days at two times contribution cost (based on your deemed earnings before the leave) when you return to your permanent work schedule, if you meet the eligibility requirements under the Income Tax Regulations.*

If you are a non-unionized member whose hours were temporarily reduced before March 1, 2020 and continued to experience a reduction in hours after March 1, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your employer may report two separate leave periods.

  1. Your leave period up until March 1, 2020 will be reported as an Authorized Leave, purchasable at two times the cost of contributions if you meet the eligibility requirements under the Income Tax Regulations.*

  2. The remainder of your period of reduced hours from March 1, 2020 to January 1, 2022 may be deemed to be an IDEL. If this is the case, the cost to purchase your leave of absence will be treated the same as a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022. See the question How will OMERS administer employee absences from work (e.g., leaves or temporary layoffs) related to COVID-19? above for more information.


*The Income Tax Regulations require employees to be employed with their employer for 36 months before the start of their period of reduced pay. On July 2, 2020 the Department of Finance released draft regulations that set aside the 36-month employment requirement for periods of reduced pay in 2020. The Department of Finance subsequently extended these draft regulations by one year on May 20, 2021. In light of this change, members may purchase periods of reduced pay that occur in 2020 and 2021 without consideration to the 36-month employment requirement.


3. I am a non-unionized member who experienced a reduction in hours between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Your period of reduced hours may be deemed to be an IDEL under the ESA.

If this is the case, the cost to purchase your leave of absence will be treated the same as a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022. See the question How will OMERS administer employee absences from work (e.g., leaves or temporary layoffs) related to COVID-19? above for more information.

Visit the OMERS Community site where you’ll find resources, including health and wellness information from our Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Aw, and inspirational stories from OMERS portfolio companies as well as our member and employer communities.

OMERS is not authorized to provide financial assistance (e.g., loans) to members. These services are available through a commercial financial institution.

You may wish to reach out to your financial institution to see what assistance they are able to offer you during this difficult time.

Top-up payments to Employment Insurance benefits are not considered to be amounts received on a regular and recurring basis (i.e., these payments are temporary) and are therefore excluded from contributory earnings.

Your pensionable earnings are based on contributory earnings for the 60 months of consecutive credited service during which the contributory earnings are the highest.

See below for information on how a period of temporary layoff could impact your pensionable earnings.

I am a member who was on a temporary layoff that was initiated in 2020 or 2021:

If you are a member whose temporary layoff was initiated in 2020 or 2021 and your employment was not terminated by you or your employer before June 24, 2020, your layoff can be purchased at two times the cost of contributions (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave started) when you return from your leave.

By purchasing your temporary layoff period, your absence is included as credited service and may be considered when determining your pensionable earnings. If earnings are credited for this period and this period makes up part of your highest 60 months of consecutive credited service, it will be used for the purposes of determining your pensionable earnings. If it is not purchased, it will not be treated as a period of eligible service (i.e., to determine when you are eligible for an unreduced pension).

I am a member who was on a temporary layoff that was initiated before 2020 or after 2021:

If you are a member whose temporary layoff was initiated before 2020 or after 2021, you will not have the option to purchase the period of layoff.

As a result, your period of temporary layoff will not be included when determining your pensionable earnings. As the temporary layoff will be ignored, the period of credited service before and after the layoff will be linked and considered continuous when determining your pensionable earnings.

1. Can I purchase the reduction in my earnings?
If your employer temporarily reduces your earnings but requires that you continue to work your regular hours, the reduction in your earnings is not purchasable for OMERS purposes.

2. How does this temporary reduction in earnings impact my contributory earnings and credited service?
During this period, you will continue to make contributions based on your actual (reduced) pay and you will continue to accrue credited service. Your contributory earnings for this period will be based on your actual (reduced) earnings.

3. How does this temporary reduction in earnings impact my pensionable earnings?
Pensionable earnings are based on your highest 60 consecutive months of contributory earnings. In this case, because you are still contributing on your reduced earnings, these earnings will be included in your pensionable earnings if they are part of your highest 60 consecutive months of contributory earnings.

OMERS remains a defined benefit pension plan, focused on paying predictable monthly incomes to its members in retirement. This has not changed, even with the global pandemic situation. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.

Your OMERS pension is built for the long run. You can be certain that OMERS team of expert investors worldwide has been taking specific measures over the last several years to help safeguard our portfolio as much as possible for events just like this one.

From an investment perspective, we remain focused on long-term returns. You should have confidence that our high-quality portfolio and highly capable and experienced team will continue to take steps to deliver on our pension promise.

Recently the CRA released guidance on employer provided benefits and allowances pertaining to commuting and home office costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance from CRA states that, under certain circumstances, these employer-paid benefits are not considered taxable if received during the period from March 15, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

OMERS instructions on contributory earnings have not changed. An employer paid benefit must be included in contributory earnings if it is both an ongoing part of the member’s compensation and taxable. Employer paid amounts that are not taxable cannot be included in contributory earnings.

As a result, amounts paid or benefits provided by an employer that are no longer taxable under certain circumstances as per the CRA’s guidance should be excluded from OMERS deductions and reporting. Other amounts that are one-time payments (e.g., reimbursement for work from home equipment above $500) are also non-contributory as they are temporary.

Please refer to the guidance on the CRA website for more information.

Yes. If you are entitled to the paid infectious disease emergency leave (Paid IDEL) under the ESA, employer and member contributions are to continue, unless you notify your employer that you do not wish to contribute during the Paid IDEL. Contributions will be deducted at 100% of your annual contributory earnings regardless of whether your pay during the Paid IDEL is capped at $200 per day.

Information for School Board Employees

New as of September 29, 2020

To keep students and teachers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, school boards have reduced classroom sizes and have offered remote learning. As a result of these changes, the Ontario College of Teachers has warned that there is a shortage of certified teachers in the province. To teach in the province of Ontario, a person must hold a Certificate of Qualification from the Ontario College of Teachers. In unique circumstances where a school board is unable to hire individuals who are members of the Ontario College of Teachers for board teaching positions, they may apply for a Letter of Permission from the Ministry of Education. When a Letter of Permission is obtained, the impacted employee must participate in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). An OMERS member with a school board who does not hold a Certificate or a Letter of Permission noted above will continue as an OMERS member.

In light of this situation, we understand that school boards may be obtaining Letters of Permission that would apply to non-teaching employees of a school board who are currently members of the OMERS Primary Pension Plan (Plan). If you are an OMERS member and you are taking on a teaching position under the terms of a Letter of Permission, this will have implications for your OMERS membership. Below you’ll find information to help you understand the impact to your OMERS Plan benefit.

For more information please call Member Services at +1 416.369.2444 or +1 800.387.0813, Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can also start a conversation using our secure communication channel in your myOMERS account.

Your contributions and benefit accrual under the OMERS Plan will stop. You must start making contributions and begin accrual under the OTPP.

You’ll have the following options to choose from:

  1. You may leave your benefit in OMERS; or

  2. You may transfer your OMERS benefit to the OTPP under an existing agreement between the two plans to establish pension service in the OTPP. The transfer process must start within 6 months of the commencement of the teaching assignment under the Letter of Permission.

Your decision will be based on a number of factors such as the term of the teaching position covered by the Letter of Permission. As a result, we encourage you to consult a trusted financial planner who can review potential costs and tax implications to help you make an informed decision.

Your contributions and benefit accrual under the OMERS Plan will stop. You must start making contributions and begin accrual under the OTPP.

In addition, as your employment has ended, you will receive your Pension Options Form that will provide details about the OMERS benefit options available to you. 

When making your decision, you should consider a number of factors such as the term of the teaching position covered by the Letter of Permission and your overall retirement plan. We encourage you to consult a trusted financial planner who can review potential costs and tax implications to help you make an informed decision.

Please note: In accordance with the OMERS Plan rules, if a commuted value option is available to you, you elect this option and then re-enrol in OMERS, you will have to wait 5 years from the date of payment before you can purchase the previously refunded membership period. This should be taken into consideration as you decide which OMERS benefit option is right for you.

Once the term of the teaching position covered by the Letter of Permission ends and you return to a non-teaching school board position (whether in the same or a different school board), your contributions and benefit accrual under the OTPP will stop. You must start making contributions and begin accrual once you are re-enrolled in the OMERS Plan. 

You must contact the OTPP regarding the options available to you in respect to your OTPP benefit.

To support you with making a decision regarding transferring your OMERS benefit, you will be provided with additional information about the options available to you.

Your decision will be based on a number of factors such as the term of the teaching position covered by the Letter of Permission. As a result, we encourage you to consult a trusted financial planner who can review potential costs and tax implications to help you make an informed decision.

You will continue to be eligible to participate in the AVC program as long as your benefit remains with OMERS. If you decide to transfer your benefit to the OTPP, you must also withdraw your AVC funds as per the OMERS Plan terms.