Private Sector Pensions
Office of the Alberta Superintendent of Pensions
Private Sector Employment Pension Plans
Click here for a general introduction on pensions in Alberta.
The Mission Statement of the Superintendent of Pensions' Office is:
To provide a fair and balanced regulatory environment that supports the development and maintenance of strong and stable pension plans, and protects individuals’ pension rights.
We work to achieve this mission by working and living the Alberta Public Service values and the Financial Sector Regulation and Policy operating principles.
The role of the Superintendent of Pensions is to administer and enforce the requirements of the Employment Pension Plans Act (the “Act”), to ensure that all pension plans are compliant with the Act, and where necessary, to take enforcement action to correct issues of non-compliance.
The recommendations of the 2008 Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards the Act included a recommendation that the Act be principles based with rules being in place where needed.
To that end, the Employment Pension Plans Act and Regulation was proclaimed on September 1, 2014 and gives the Superintendent flexibility and discretion to work with plan administrators to explore new ideas and to ensure that a plan complies with the legislation. In this process the Superintendent may:
- extend any due dates set in the legislation,
- accept or reject new plan designs,
- impose conditions where an extension has been granted,
- accept or reject plan amendments and actuarial valuations, under certain circumstances,
- impose administrative penalties for issues of non-compliance, if deemed necessary given the context and circumstance, and
- request additional records or information if deemed necessary for the Superintendent to perform his duties.
In exercising these discretionary powers, the Superintendent will apply the following principles in his consideration of the issues:
- does the action proposed reflect and/or not deter from the true goal of providing a lifetime pension to members,
- does the proposal treat members in the same class of employment or grouping consistently,
- does the proposal lower or negatively affect the probability that the benefits promised will be paid, and
- what information has or will be provided to members.
The Act sets out the minimum standards that pension plans with Alberta members must meet with respect to those members. The legislation deals with:
- what a member is entitled to, when a member is entitled to a benefit from a pension plan, and what the payment options are,
- minimum standards for funding of benefits,
- minimum standards applying to fundholders, and rules around the administration and investment of pension funds,
- responsibilities, liabilities and obligations of individuals involved in the administration of a pension plan (such as participating employers, fundholders, plan administrators, etc.)
Key Minimum Standards Affecting Members
The Act requires that
- all members of the group of employees, which are eligible for participation in the plan, must be permitted to join the plan if they have earned 35% of YMPE in each of two consecutive calendar years;
- benefits earned are immediately vested in the member;
- benefits are locked-in if the commuted value of the benefit is at least equal to 20% of YMPE;
- members with a pension partner must choose a 60% joint and survivor pension on pension commencement unless the pension partner waives entitlement to the joint and survivor benefit; and
- members are entitled to certain disclosure of information upon joining the plan, on an annual basis while an active members of the plan, and on termination of membership. Furthermore, retired members who receive a monthly pension from the plan are also entitled to disclosure of information.
Key Minimum Standards Affecting Funding
The Act requires
- triennial actuarial valuations of benefit formula plans;
- amortization of any unfunded liabilities over 15 years and solvency deficiencies over 5 years;
- remittance to the fund holder of contributions due and owing on a monthly basis; and
- filing of additional actuarial valuations if an event occurs between the triennial period that affects plan funding;
Key Minimum Standards for Plan Funds
The Act requires
- pension plan funds must be held separate and apart from the plan sponsor or participating employer;
- pension plan funds must be held by a prescribed fundholder (normally a trust company, individual trustees, or an insurance company);
- except in the case of a collectively bargained multi-employer pension plan, fundholders must advise the Superintendent of a participating employer’s failure to remit contributions or remittance irregularities; and
- pension plan funds must be invested in accordance with the requirements of Schedule III of the federal Pension Benefit Standards Act.
Key Minimum Standards for Plan Administrators and Others Involved in Plan Management
The Act requires that
- all plans must have a governance policy;
- plans with benefit formula provisions must have a funding policy;
- unless investment decisions are made by plan members, the plan must have a statement of investment policies and procedures;
- the plan administrator must assess the administration of the plan on an annual basis, which includes an assessment of the plan’s compliance with legislation, the plan’s governance, and the funding of the plan; and
- the plan administrator must file an Annual Information Return with the Superintendent;
- in the case of a plan with a benefit formula provision, the administrator must file an actuarial valuation and cost certificate triennially, or at other times required under the Act; and
- information requested by the Superintendent be provided by the party to whom the request is made.
Key Minimum Standards for Locked-in Funds
The Act sets out rules governing locked-in retirement products. LIRAs (Locked-in Retirement Accounts) are RRSPs with special rules and LIFs (Life Income Funds) are RRIFs with special rules. Locked-in funds transferring out of a pension plan must be transferred to a LIRA or a LIF.
The Act also sets out rules for accessing
or unlocking pension funds from a LIRA or a LIF in different situations, including financial hardship.