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COVID-19 Update: Information for Members

Updated as of September 29, 2020


Over the last few months, we have received numerous questions about how COVID-19 is impacting the OMERS Primary Pension Plan (Plan) as well as requests for flexibility from those of you who are in the middle of transacting with us. We have compiled these Frequently Asked Questions that we hope you will find helpful. Given the continually changing circumstances, we will update this page frequently 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. (EDT) 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. In addition, given that most banks are operating on reduced hours and to help you with social distancing, we encourage all members who currently reside in Canada, U.S., or 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.

For an October 1 pension start date, OMERS must receive completed applications by September 15, 2020 to ensure you receive your payment on October 1. Completed applications received after September 15, 2020 will be paid on November 1, retroactive to October 1. 

Completed applications should include the following documentation:

  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. The newly established "Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies" (Emergency Leave) is purchasable for OMERS purposes.

The cost of contributions to purchase the Emergency Leave may depend on the application of the recently filed regulation to the ESA, O. Reg 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL Regulation). Under the IDEL Regulation, a period of absence may be deemed to be an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL).

See below for additional information.

1. I am on an Emergency Leave or am a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 2, 2021:

If you are non-unionized employee who has experienced a temporary elimination of hours between March 1, 2020 and January 2, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your absence may be deemed 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 (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave started), depending on when your absence started and whether you were contributing to the OMERS Plan on May 29, 2020.

If you qualify for an Emergency Leave that is not related to the IDEL Regulation, you can purchase your leave of absence at one times the cost of contributions (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave started) when you return from your leave.

2. I am 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, 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 are a member whose temporary layoff was initiated in 2020 and your employment was subsequently terminated by you or your employer before June 24, 2020 (whether you started your 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.

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) under the newly introduced O. Reg 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave in 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.

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.*

The remainder of your period of reduced hours from March 1, 2020 to January 2, 2021 may be deemed to be an IDEL. If this is the case, the cost to purchase your leave of absence may be one or two times the cost of contributions (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave), depending on when your absence started and whether you were contributing to the OMERS Plan on May 29, 2020.

*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. In light of this change members may purchase periods of reduced pay that occur in 2020 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 2, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

If you are a non-unionized employee who experienced a temporary reduction in hours between March 1, 2020 and January 2, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your period of reduced hours may be deemed to be an IDEL.

If this is the case, the cost to purchase your leave of absence may be one or two times the cost of contributions (based on your deemed earnings in effect before the leave) depending on when your absence started and whether you were contributing to the OMERS Plan on May 29, 2020.

Yes. Now that the federal government has passed legislation to change the minimum required withdrawal amounts, OMERS will automatically reduce the minimum withdrawal amounts for AVC Income Option members in June 2020. You do not have to apply to OMERS for the reduced minimum withdrawal amount to take effect.

Given the challenging circumstances and the current realities for OMERS members, we will temporarily provide you with the ability to place buy-back payment plans on hold for a period of three months. At the end of this grace period, you will have the option to re-activate a new payment plan based on the outstanding principle cost using a new 12/24/36 month duration or alternatively, terminate the payment plan permanently. If a payment plan is terminated and you wish to purchase the remaining service in the future, the cost for the period will be recalculated based on the values at that time. 

To help you understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re answering your questions through e-Learning modules. These quick and easy-to-use modules address topics such as Our Pension PromiseAdditional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) and Leaves of Absence

Additionally, you can visit the new OMERS Community site.

There, you’ll find resources, including health and wellness information from our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Aw, and inspirational stories from OMERS portfolio companies as well as our member and employer communities. We are also offering a program to keep in touch called OMERS Virtual Coffee Chats, where you’ll be able to connect with someone in the community over the phone.

A myOMERS account is not required to access the site.

Unfortunately, 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.

OSFI’s portability freeze, that came into effect on March 27, 2020, applies to federally registered private pension plans only.

As OMERS is a provincially registered pension plan, the portability freeze does not apply to and does not impact your OMERS benefit.

On August 31, 2020, OSFI announced that it is lifting the temporary freeze on portability transfers for private pension plans.

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.

These pandemic payments cannot be included in OMERS contributory earnings because they are temporary in nature (i.e., only payable over the next four months) and are not part of the employer’s regular recurring compensation (i.e., salary and wages) for its employees.

*On April 25, 2020, the province announced Pandemic Pay for eligible frontline workers from April 24 to August 13, 2020. This includes a $4/hour premium and a $250 lump-sum payment for those working more than 100 hours a month over the next four months.

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, as long as 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 considered when determining your pensionable earnings. If 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.

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.

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.

While we are not immune to current market conditions, 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.

OMERS continues to operate under the regular monthly pension payroll cycle. Pensions will continue to be paid on the first business day of the month and new pensions will commence on time if all of the required documents are received. Our pension promise is very important, both to you and to us.

1. Can I purchase the reduction in my earnings?
If your employer temporarily reduces your earnings but requires that you continue to work your regularhours, 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.

The announcement from the Ontario government stated that voluntarily redeployed staff will maintain their employment relationship with the school board and will continue to receive their compensation and other employment benefits. During this temporary redeployment, you will continue to make contributions based on your actual pay and continue to accrue credited service. In other words, your OMERS pension will not be affected by the redeployment.

The announcement also mentions that you will be eligible for the provincial government's pandemic pay. These pandemic payments cannot be included in OMERS contributory earnings, as they are temporary in nature (i.e., only payable over the next four months) and not part of your employer’s regular recurring compensation (i.e., salary and wages).

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. (EDT). 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.