N.S. employers can now take 15 years to make pension plan solvent

Unless more than one-third of plan members object
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 02/14/2013

Private sector pension plans in Nova Scotia can now take up to 15 years to be fully funded, said the government.

"People deserve and need their pension benefits to be there when they retire," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Marilyn More. "If we didn't relax the rules around defined benefit pension plan funding, employers could be forced to lay off workers or reduce benefits. These changes give more employers breathing room to recover from the recession and low interest rates.”

Employers that want to move to 15-year recovery must notify plan members, working and retired. If more than one-third of plan members do not write a letter to the employer to object, funding is extended. If more than one-third of the members object, the employer must fund the plan within five years, said the government.

The extended funding would be available to plans that were found to be underfunded between 2011 and 2014.

The recession that began in 2008-09 cut return on investments drastically, leaving many plans underfunded. The indicators that are used to determine whether a plan is solvent have dropped significantly since 2011, said the government.

Previously, when a plan was underfunded, the employer had five years to make the plan solvent. Some employers said it would take so much money to make their plans solvent, the company might need to close.

"This announcement comes when many organizations and employee groups are trying to determine the right pension approach for their circumstances in an evolving pension environment," said Derek Gerard, principal with Eckler, a financial consultancy. "Allowing plan sponsors to spread solvency shortfall payments over 15 years, instead of five, will help tremendously during an expected period of transition for pension plans."

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