Public service pensionable service
Pensionable service means the complete or partial years of service credited to you at retirement. Your total pensionable service is the sum of your periods of current service, service that has been bought back and service transferred through a Pension Transfer Agreement. Your pensionable service is used to determine your eligibility for pension benefits and to calculate your pension benefits.
Table of contents
- Eligibility to participate in the public service pension plan
- Increasing your pension
- Leave without pay
- Service buyback
- Types of prior service
- How to buy back service
- Service buyback contributions
- Normal and late election contributions
- Contribution rates for buying back service
- Income tax implications
- Obtaining a cost estimate
- Payment options
- Medical examination
- Revocation of an election
- Pension transfer agreements
Eligibility to participate in the public service pension plan
As a full-time or Part-time public service employee (minimum 12 hours per week), you are covered by the pension benefit provision under the public service pension plan:
- from your first day at work, if you are appointed on an indeterminate basis; or
- from your first day at work, if you are hired for a period of more than six months; or
- after six months of continuous employment, if you were originally hired for a period of six months or less.
The date when you became a member of the public service pension plan determines when you will be eligible to receive an unreduced pension benefit:
- If you were a member on or before , you are eligible to draw an unreduced pension benefit at age 60 with at least two years of pensionable service (or age 55 with 30 years of service); or,
- If you become a member on or after , you are eligible to draw an unreduced pension benefit at age 65 with at least two years of pensionable service (or age 60 with 30 years of service).
A "public service employee" means the employees of any federal government department. They also include employees working for the following organizations:
- The Senate, House of Commons or Library of Parliament;
- Certain agencies and corporations that have been designated as part of the public service for pension purposes; and
- Certain agencies participating in the public service pension plan by virtue of their own statutes.
The following groups do not participate in the public service pension plan:
- Part-time employees working an average of less than 12 hours a week;
- Part-time employees who have been employed in the public service since , and who have not chosen to contribute within the prescribed period;
- Employees working outside Canada;
- Employees covered by another Canadian government pension plan (namely, the pension plans under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act-Regular Force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act);
- Employees working on an "as-required" basis; and
- Seasonal employees and employees appointed for a term of six months or less, until they have completed six months of continuous service.
Some employees, such as sessional employees and employees of certain commissions, must meet certain conditions and be specifically designated as members.
Current service contributions
The period during which you contribute to the pension plan is called current service. The contributions you make to your pension plan for current service are tax deductible. Please refer to Contribution Rates for more information about the annual rate of contributions for the public service pension plan.
Maximum period of pensionable service
You can accumulate up to 35 years of pensionable service, including:
- Current service;
- Service buyback;
- Prior service transferred from another pension plan; and
- Pensionable service accumulated under other federal government pension plans for which you are receiving or are entitled to receive a pension, such as the Canadian Forces-Regular Force Pension Plan or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pension Plan.
After 35 years of pensionable service, your contribution rate drops to 1 percent of your salary for the remainder of your service. Even if you stop accumulating pensionable service, your pension will be calculated taking into account your salary paid during that period.
Generally, public service pension plan members who left the federal public service prior to and opted for:
will continue to be covered under the pre-2013 pension plan terms if they become re-employed in the federal public service on or after .
However, those who were members of the plan before , will not remain covered under the pre-2013 pension plan terms when re-employed in the federal public service on or after , in the following situations:
- plan members who left the public service with less than two years of pensionable service with a return of contributions,
- plan members who left the public service and opted for a transfer value, or
- plan members who left the public service and opted to transfer their pensionable service accumulated under the public service pension plan to a new employer's pension plan under general portability rules or a Pension Transfer Agreement.
If you become re-employed in the public service and are required to contribute to the public service pension plan, the percentage of salary that is applied towards pension contributions is determined by the applicable pension plan terms: the pre-2013 or post 2013 plan terms. Please refer to Contribution Rates for more information.
Impact of re-employment on your public service pension benefits
It is important to note that re-employment in the federal public service after retirement can have an impact on your public service pension benefits. If you become re-employed in the federal public service in a position that does not require you to resume contributing to the public service pension plan, you can receive both your pension and the salary from your new position.
However, if you become re-employed in the public service and begin contributing to the pension plan again, your monthly pension (including indexing) will cease as you are unable to receive a public service pension and accumulate pensionable service simultaneously. Your monthly pension will start again once you stop contributing to the public service pension plan, and your pension will most likely be recalculated based on your combined pension credits. The annual percentage increase received as a result of indexing will be based on your most recent date of retirement. Please refer to the Effects of Re-employment on Indexing Benefits for more information.
The new combination of benefits–that is, your new monthly pension plus the increase in pensionable service based on the later date of retirement–could be lower than the previous total entitlement. If you are thinking of taking a job in a contributory position, carefully consider if it would affect your total pension benefits.
If you are re-employed past age 71, you cannot contribute to the public service pension plan. However, if you are in a position that would normally require you to contribute to the pension plan, your monthly pension (including indexing) will cease to be paid until you stop working, even if you are past age 71.
If you received a transfer value when you left the public service, are re-employed and resume your contributions to the public service pension plan, you may be able to reinstate all or part of the pensionable service for which you received a transfer value. This option is available on a one-time basis only and a one-year deadline applies.
In general, re-employment outside the public service has no effect on any of your entitlements under the public service pension plan, unless you retired on grounds of disability.
Leave without pay
As a result of Income Tax Act requirements for registered pension plans, the public service pension plan restricts the amount of pensionable leave without pay, other than sick leave without pay, to a career maximum of five years. The government will track any leave without pay that you take on or after , to ensure that you don't exceed the five-year maximum.
An exception to the five-year rule relates to periods of leave without pay for parenting reasons. In addition to the maximum of five years of unpaid leave of absence recognized for pension purposes, plan members may also be credited under the plan with up to three more years of leave without pay for parenting purposes. Only parenting leave without pay that falls in the year following the birth or adoption of a child may be included for purposes of tracking the additional three-year limit.
Another exception to the five-year rule is that of "on-loan" situations, where the services of a public service employee are loaned out to another employer by formal agreement between the two employers. When considering working with another employer or an international organization, you should consult the Government of Canada Pension Centre to determine the period of leave you are allowed under certain circumstances.
Increasing your pension
You can add eligible service in order to increase your pension. To do so, you can opt to count an eligible period of leave without pay as pensionable service, buy back service or transfer service from another employer's pension plan through a Pension Transfer Agreement.
Leave without pay
During a leave without pay, you can opt to count the period of leave as pensionable service, as long as you make the required contributions and the leave is approved.
Generally, contributions for periods of leave without pay are deducted from your salary when you return to work. Such contributions are deducted in equal installments, over a period equal to twice the period of your absence. You may also choose to pay the whole amount in a lump sum within 30 days of the date of your return to work.
However, if you are on extended leave to serve on loan with another employer or an international organization, you must pay your contributions in advance–annually, semi-annually or quarterly–to the Pension Centre. If your leave falls into any of these categories, consult the Government of Canada Pension Centre about the amounts required and the method of payment.
For a leave of less than three months, you will contribute at the single rate (the employee contribution only), and the service will be credited to you.
For periods of more than three months, you will contribute at the single rate for the first three months and at either the single rate or the double rate (both the employee and employer-matching contributions) for the balance of the leave, depending on the type of leave. For these longer periods, you may choose not to contribute after the first three months, in which case the non-contributory service will not be credited to you either for eligibility or pension calculation purposes.
An election not to contribute for leave without pay can only be made during the period beginning three months after the leave begins and ending three months following return to work. If you elect not to contribute, you may elect to buy back that service later, but the cost will differ.
Before you started contributing to the public service pension plan, you may have accumulated service in the public service or with another employer. You may be able to buy back that service to increase your pension. Once it is bought back, the service is included in your pensionable service used to calculate your pension.
You may buy back all or part of a period of prior service. If it is for a part only, it usually must be for the part that occurred most recently. You may extend your election to cover additional periods without penalty by completing another election within the normal one-year time limit.
Also, if part of your service transferred from a former employer under a Pension Transfer Agreement is not recognized by the public service pension plan, you can buy back that service.
If you want to estimate the cost of buying back previous service and see the resulting increase in your pension, a service buyback estimator tool is available on the Compensation Web Applications (CWA). For further information about service buyback, you can also refer to the Service Buyback Package.
By increasing your pensionable service,
- You increase your pension;
- You increase protection for your beneficiaries;
- You can reach 35 years of pensionable service earlier; and
- You can retire earlier.
However, if you leave the public service before completing two years of continuous service, you will only be entitled to a return of contributions with interest. Consequently, if you intend to leave within that period, you should consider whether it is in your interest to surrender the entitlement under the previous plan. This provision does not apply if you leave the public service involuntarily.
You may also want to speak with your financial advisor about the pros and cons of buying back service.
Types of prior service
The following are types of prior service you may wish to buy back:
- Prior service within the public service: You can buy back virtually any full-time service in the public service, including periods of eligible unpaid leave not already recognized as pensionable service. You can also buy back prior Part-time service after , as long as you were hired to work an average of at least 12 hours a week.
- Prior service outside the public service: You can buy back service with any employer with an approved pension plan registered under the Income Tax Act. The service with the former employer must have taken place within six months before your public service employment. If the prior employment ended more than six months but less than two years before you entered the public service, special consideration is required to determine whether the service is eligible for buyback or not.
- Service with the Canadian Forces-Regular Force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: If you are entitled to a pension under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Defence Services Pension Continuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pension Continuation Act or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, you may elect to combine your previous service with your service under the public service pension plan. All your service will then be subject to the terms of the public service pension plan. You must make this election before leaving the public service. You must also pass a medical examination.
- Service as a Member of Parliament: If you are entitled to a pension under the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, you may elect to transfer your service to the public service pension plan at any time before you leave the public service. You must then repay, with interest at an annual rate of 4 percent, any pension you received after your first year as a public service pension plan member. You must also pay any contributions still owing under the Members of Parliament plan and pass a medical examination.
- Other types of service: You may buy back other types of prior service, such as active war service and certain types of civilian war service.
Keep in mind that if your prior employer paid in whole or in part for any annuity entitlement you may have under another pension plan, you must surrender that entitlement before you can buy back service. You should ensure that the service in question can be recognized under the public service pension plan before you surrender the entitlement.
How to buy back service
If you buy back service within one year of becoming a public service pension plan member, it is called a normal election. To do so, refer to the Service Buyback Package, complete a special election form and send it to the address shown on the form before the prescribed period expires. The election will be sent to the Pension Centre for verification. Action will be taken to start payroll deductions, where necessary.
If you wait after a year of becoming a public service pension plan member to elect to buy back service, it is called a late election. You must complete the election form and forward it within one month of the date on which you signed it.
You may buy back service at any time while you are employed in the public service and contributing to the public service pension plan. Cost and other requirements may vary, depending on when you make the election. For either a normal or a late election, any election not forwarded within the prescribed time will be invalid.
Service buyback contributions
When you elect to buy back service, you must make contributions for that purpose, in addition to your regular contributions for current service. You are considered to have received a certain salary during each year of service that you want to buy back, and a contribution rate is prescribed for each of those years.
Normal and late election contributions
If you make a normal election, that is, if you make an election within one year of becoming a public service pension plan member, your buyback contributions are based on your salary rate when you last became a member of the public service pension plan. The cost of buying back service increases after the first year of membership, as your salary rises and interest continues to accrue. Therefore, it is more advantageous for you to make your election in the first year.
If you make a late election, that is, after one year of becoming a public service pension plan member, your buyback contributions are based on the salary payable to you at the date of the election. In many cases, a late election could mean a much higher cost.
Contribution rates for buying back service
Your contribution rate may be single or double, depending on whether the type of service requires you to pay employee or both employee and employer-matching contributions.
The cost of buying back service includes 4 percent interest calculated from the middle of each fiscal year of service that is bought back to the first day of the month in which you make the election.
Since , the contributions made to buy back service cover the cost of protection from inflation.
The cost of buying back service depends on the types of prior service you elect to buy back, in addition to the timing of your election (normal or late election):
|Type of service||Contribution rate|
|Prior public service||Single rate|
|Prior service outside the public service||Double rate|
|Service with the Canadian Forces-Regular Force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police||
The cost depends on your status under the Act to which you were previously subject.
In addition to the buyback contributions, you must also repay to the former plan all pensions received after your first year as a member of the public service pension plan. Furthermore, you must continue to pay any amount you may still owe under the former plan.
You may be entitled to pensions from the Canadian Forces-Regular Force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police even though you did not contribute. In this case, if you surrender your pension, in addition to repaying any pension benefits received, you must also contribute for the service to be recognized by the public service pension plan. You then contribute at the single rate. Interest is added from the time the service occurred until the date you made the election under the public service pension plan.
If you are not entitled to a pension or similar benefit under one of these Acts and wish to have your prior service recognized by the public service pension plan, the cost of buying back service depends on whether you received a lump sum payment from the former plan.
If you are in any of these situations, you should seek more information from the Pension Centre.
|Service as a Member of Parliament||
If you are entitled to a pension, you may transfer your service to the public service pension plan, under certain conditions.
If you received a lump-sum payment, you contribute at the single rate.
If you elect to buy back service for periods of unpaid leave, your contribution rate is single or double, depending on the type of leave. The cost is based on your salary at the time you make the election. The interest accrues at a rate of 4 percent from the date of the service to the month of the election.
Income tax implications
- A plan may not recognize past periods of service buyback that occurred after for pension purposes, unless income tax officials certify a past service pension adjustment for that service.
- If you are not able to obtain a certified past service pension adjustment, your election will be declared void and any service buyback payments you may have made will be refunded to you.
- Sometimes contributions made to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or registered pension plan can be transferred to the public service pension plan. Such transfers are not tax deductible because the money being transferred is already tax-sheltered.
- You should determine to what extent your buyback contributions may be tax deductible. To determine the extent of tax deductibility for your service buyback contributions or other tax implications, you may wish to contact the Canada Revenue Agency or a tax specialist.
Obtaining a cost estimate
Before electing to buy back service, you should obtain an estimate of what your prior service will cost from the Government of Canada Pension Centre shortly after you become a member of the public service pension plan. They can provide you with information and an estimate of the cost before the deadline for your election. You can also use the service buyback estimator within the Compensation Web Applications to estimate the cost of buying back service and see the impact it will have on your future pension.
If the deadline is approaching and your estimate has been delayed by the Pension Centre, you will have to consider electing without an estimate. The public service pension plan doesn't require an estimate, so failure to receive one won't affect your deadline for making a normal election.
You may pay the cost of buying back service in a lump sum or in installments. Make sure you compare both options before deciding.
The installment option may seem more costly since it entails interest and insurance costs. However, it allows you to spread your payments over a certain period of time.
As a general rule, additional interest is charged on any overdue installments. So if you are not paying through payroll deductions, be sure to send your payments in on time. If you change departments, make sure the installments continue to be deducted from your salary.
If you retire with an immediate annuity or an annual allowance before paying all your installments for prior service, your pension will be calculated to include all your service buyback, but the unpaid installments will be deducted monthly from your pension benefit.
If, upon leaving the public service, you choose to receive a deferred annuity, you must remit your installments regularly between the time you leave and the time your pension starts. If you opt for a transfer value, you must pay the remaining cost of any service buyback you wish to have included in the pension benefit before the value can be transferred.
In the event of your death, neither your estate nor your survivor would have to make any more payments as the cost of the service buyback would be considered to be paid in full.
With a few exceptions, if you elect to purchase prior service, you will have to undergo a medical examination. If you make a late election, a medical examination is required. If you don't pass the examination, the election is void.
For a normal election, you may not need a medical examination. In other circumstances, the election can be maintained even if you fail the examination.
If, as a former member of the Canadian Forces-Regular Force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or as a former member of Parliament, you elect to surrender an annuity entitlement under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act or the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act in order to count the service under the public service pension plan, you must pass a medical examination when you make that election.
As of 2016, the time period to undertake a medical examination has been extended from 90 days before and six months after the date of the election to six months before and one year after the date of election.
Revocation of an election
You may revoke (in other words, cancel) an election only in unusual circumstances, so you should consider any election carefully. Even if a revocation is approved, you may be charged a fee for the election insurance, incurred while the election was in force.
Normally, if a person revokes an election and later wishes to have either part or all of the service that the revoked election covered recognized by the plan, the second election is treated as a late election.
Pension transfer agreements
Through Pension Transfer Agreements, you can add eligible prior service in order to increase your pension.
Transfer of your accumulated pension to the public service pension plan
Under a Pension Transfer Agreement concluded between the Government of Canada and an eligible employer, you can have the actuarial value of pension benefits accumulated under that employer's pension plan transferred to the public service pension plan, regardless of the period in-between your membership in the public service pension plan and the other plan. An actuarial value is a pension value based on a set of actuarial assumptions.
The method and assumptions used to calculate this transfer value (in current dollars) may vary according to the terms of each Pension Transfer Agreement. Requests for pension transfers must be made within the period mentioned in the agreement (usually one year).
Transfer of your accumulated pension to another plan
If you leave the public service for another employer, you may, among other things, transfer your pension accumulated under the public service pension plan to your new employer's pension plan under general portability rules or a Pension Transfer Agreement, provided that that employer has entered such an agreement with the Government of Canada.
When you opt for a pension transfer, you approve the transfer of not only your accumulated pension under the public service pension plan, but also those amounts payable under the Retirement Compensation Arrangement, if applicable. Most employers outside of the public service do not have a Retirement Compensation Arrangement. In this case, the Retirement Compensation Arrangement portion is paid directly to you, and you must pay income tax on the amount received.
Before requesting a pension transfer, examine the provisions and benefits of your new employer's plan and compare them to those of the public service pension plan to determine if it is in your best interest to transfer your pension credits, rather than opting for a deferred annuity for example. Factors such as health and dental care coverage available at retirement should be carefully examined. Make sure you examine your pension options before making your decision.
If your new or prospective employer has not already entered into a Pension Transfer Agreement with the Government of Canada, but is interested in doing so, that employer may submit a request to the Pensions and Benefits Sector of the Treasury Board Secretariat. Please note that this process may take some time and that you have only one year following your departure from the public service to choose a transfer value.
List of recognized pension transfer agreements
The government may enter into Pension Transfer Agreements with employers who meet certain requirements established by the Public Service Superannuation Act.
The following table lists employers with which Pension Transfer Agreements have been concluded as well as the effective dates. For details on Pension Transfer Agreements, contact the Government of Canada Pension Centre.
|Name of employer||Effective date|
|Public Service Alliance of Canada|
|Journal de Montréal|
|Ontario Public Service Employees' Union|
|Province of Nova Scotia|
|The following Fishery Commissions:
|Province of Manitoba (Civil Service Superannuation Board)|
|Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation|
|The Co-operative Superannuation Society|
|The Native Benefits Plan Pension Committee|
|Société de transport de la Communauté urbaine de Québec|
|Province of British Columbia (Board of Trustees for the British Columbia Public Service Pension Plan)|
|Province of British Columbia (Board of Trustees for the British Columbia Municipal Pension Plan)|
|Province of British Columbia (Board of Trustees for the British Columbia Teachers' Pension Plan)|
|Province of British Columbia (Board of Trustees for the British Columbia College Pension Plan)|
|Province of Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Province of Ontario (Ontario Pension Board)|
|Province of Prince Edward Island|
|Northwest Territories (Participating Employers under the Northern Employees Benefits Services Pension Plan)|
|University of Moncton-personnel de soutien, techniciens, personnel administratif ou professionnel|
|University of Moncton-professeurs, professeures et bibliothécaires|
|Province of Manitoba (participating municipalities under the Manitoba Municipal Employees Pension Plan)|
|Ville de Montréal Nord|
|Canadian Broadcasting Corporation|
|Halifax Regional Municipality|
|Province of Manitoba (Participating Employers under the Healthcare Employees Pension Plan)|
|L'Université Laval (le Comité de retraite du Régime de retraite des employés et employées de l'Université Laval)|
|L'Université Laval (le Comité de retraite du Régime de retraite des professeurs et professeures de l'Université Laval)|
|University of Western Ontario|
|Province of Quebec (RRE, RRF, RREGOP, RRCE) des enseignants, des fonctionnaires, employés du gouvernement et des organismes publics et certains enseignants||February 1, 2002|
|Province of Quebec (RRPE) régime de retraite du personnel d'encadrement|
|Ontario Power Generation Inc.|
|Province of British Columbia (Workers' Compensation Board)|
|Concacan Inc. (The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops)|
|Bank of Canada|
|Province of New Brunswick (Public Service Superannuation Act - NB)|
|Province of Ontario (participating employers under the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System – OMERS)|
|Canadian Teachers' Federation|
|Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority|
|Province of Quebec (RRAPSC) Correctional Services|
|The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada|
|Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (Ontario)|
|Aéroports de Montréal|
|Abegweit First Nation|
|Ville de Montréal (Arrondissement Montréal); applies to participants under the pension plans for the following groups of employees:
|Université du Québec|
|Archdiocese of Vancouver|
|Institut National d'Optique|
|Mount Allison University|
|Canadian Health Services Research Foundation|
|Régime de Retraite des employés syndiqués du Fonds de solidarité FTQ|
|The Pension Plan for Employees of Council of Atlantic Premiers and Participation Employers|
|MDS Nordion Division of MDS (Canada) Inc.|
|Memorial University of Newfoundland|
|The Manitoba Museum|
|Canadian Council for International Co-operation|
|Université de Montréal|
|The University of Ottawa|
|Canada Games Council|
|Marine Atlantic Inc.|
|Pension Plan for Non-Unionized Employees of VIA Rail Canada Inc.|
|Régime de retraite de la Corporation de l'École Polytechnique (Montréal)|
|Régime de retraite de la Société de Transport de Montreal (1992)|
|Régime de retraite de la Société de Transport (Syndicat du Transport de Montréal C.S.N.)|
|Bishop's University - Pension Plan for Full-Time Employees|
|Government of Alberta – with respect to the Management
Employees Pension Plan (MEPP)
|Canada Post Corporation|
|La Société de Transport de l'Outaouais|
|The trustees of the machinists fitters and helpers local #3 pension plan|
|L'Université Laval (le comité de retraite du régime de retraite du personnel professionnel de l'université laval)|
|Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)|
|The Yukon Hospital Corporation (Watson Lake Hospital employees)|
|Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund Board|
|The Board of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission (OC Transpo)|
|St. James Assiniboia School Division|
|School District No.43 (Coquitlam)|
|Régime de retraite des membres de la Sureté du Québec|
|New Brunswick Teachers’ Pension Plan (NBTPP)|
|Province of Alberta – Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) Corporation|
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