A glossary of pension and benefits terms

accrued (accrual) — Accumulated, as in pension benefits or actuarial costs of liabilities, during years of employee service before a specific valuation date of a pension plan.
accumulation period — A specific period during which the insured person must incur eligible medical expenses at least equal to the deductible to establish a benefits period under an extended health, drug or similar insurance plan.

actuarial method — A procedure by which data are analyzed and actuarial assumptions are used to estimate a future cost or other actuarial item.

actuary — A person professionally trained to make technical computations that apply probability and statistical projections to insurance problems, particularly in determining the reserves or premiums that are required to provide a given benefit in the future.

administrative-services-only (ASO) plan — An arrangement in which an employer or other party pays a fee to an insurance carrier or other contractor to handle administration of claims, benefits and so forth for a self-insured plan.

adoption benefits — A benefit given usually in the form of cash to employees who adopt children, to help defray legal and other costs.

alternative benefit clause (ABC) — A provision in a medical insurance contract that allows the insurer to pay for a cheaper but equally effective benefit to that recommended by the physician.

annual leave — Earned paid leave, roughly equivalent to vacation leave.

annuitant — The person during whose life an annuity is payable, usually the person to receive the annuity.

annuity — Fixed payments, normally in equal amounts, made to a retired participant or a beneficiary that continue for the lifetime of the participant (life annuity) or for a specified period (annuity certain). Life annuities may have a minimum guaranteed period, or may continue in whole or in part to a designated beneficiary, usually the spouse. The term frequently, though not necessarily, implies that a contract with an insurance company has been purchased to provide the benefits.

Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) — A designation earned by individuals who pass certain specified examinations of the SOA covering such topics as general mathematics, probability and statistics and numerical analysis.

Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) — A research, advocacy and membership organization in the pension field. Originally membership was restricted to sponsors of pension plans, but membership is now broader.

backloading — Designing a pension plan so that benefit accruals are greater for later years of service than for earlier years. This is generally forbidden under legislation which requires the uniform accrual of benefits.

beneficiary — A person designated by a plan participant to receive benefits of the plan in the event of the participant’s death.

benefits — Pension, medical or other payments that plan participants or their beneficiaries are entitled to receive under an employee benefits plan.

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) — The agency of the federal government that administers the ITA and its Regulations. It replaced Revenue Canada.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP or C/QPP) — The contributory earnings related pension plan operated by the federal government, which covers the vast majority of employees and the self-employed in Canada, except those in Quebec which has its own plan, which is similar but not identical to the CPP. C/QPP means a reference to both plans.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) — The research, accreditation and membership organization for actuaries in Canada.

Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute (CPBI) — A research and educational organization in the employee benefits field; membership is open to anyone interested.

Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) — The trade association of life and health insurance companies in Canada.

census — The enumeration of a population by age and sex, and the tabulation of various characteristics of that population. Usually refers to the entire population of a country, but can apply to subpopulations.

Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) — A professional designation granted by WorldatWork (formerly the American Compensation Association and the Canadian Compensation Association).

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) —A professional designation awarded by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans in conjunction with Dalhousie University (in Canada) to individuals who complete 10 courses and examinations.

claim — Any request for payment of benefits under a plan; notification to an insurance company that payment of an amount is due under the terms of a policy.

CompCorp — The Canadian Life and Health Compensation Corporation, a corporation sponsored by CLHIA providing insurance against bankruptcy, etc., for policyholders of insurance companies.

contingency reserve — The portion of plan contributions or premiums that is placed in a special account to cover the possible loss from adverse conditions that may result from investments, interest earnings, mortality, etc.

core benefits — The basic benefits provided to employees covered by a flexible benefits plan, before add-ons.

core hours — Under a flex-time arrangement, the hours when all employees need to be at work.

cost sharing — Having employees pay part of the cost of the health care that they receive through deductibles, co-insurance, etc. It may also refer to sharing in the contributions for insurance or pensions.

deductible — The amount of covered charges incurred by the protected individual that must be assumed or paid by the insured individual before benefits by the insurance company become payable.

defined benefit pension plan (DB or DBPP) — A pension plan under which benefits are determined by a formula with regards to compensation and/or service, and in which contributions per se do not affect the pension.

defined contribution pension plan (DC or DCPP) — An individual-account pension plan in which the contributions are specified and the benefits are determined by the amount accumulated in the participant’s account.

diversification — Limiting investment risk by investing in a variety of types of assets. Sound investment practice normally calls for diversification of assets.

drug utilization review (DUR) — A review of the use of drugs to determine whether the treatment is appropriate, whether drugs are over-prescribed, whether they have been used by a another party, etc.

Employment Insurance (EI) — The federally administered program that provides financial protection for workers during periods of involuntary joblessness, including disability and pregnancy, financed jointly by employers and employees. The former name for this program was Unemployment Insurance (UI).

expatriate — An employee who is assigned outside his or her base country.

explanation of benefits (EOB) — The description of benefits and services that is sent to a patient who has requested payment from a health benefits plan.

family leave — Leave granted to allow an employee to care for a newborn and/or for sick or injured family members.

flexible benefits plan — A plan that allows employees a choice among different benefits or between cash and benefits. The designation also includes flexible spending accounts.

flexible spending account (FSA) — A relatively simple type of flexible benefits plan in which employer contributions set up accounts that may be drawn on for health, child-care or legal benefits.

flex-time — A work-scheduling approach that gives employees some freedom in deciding when they start and finish work and take meal breaks.

formulary — A list of drugs, usually a list of those drugs for which a drug insurance plan will make reimbursement.

funding instrument — The contractual arrangement that describes the obligation of a funding agency.

Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) — The federal income-tested pension scheme designed to give low income residents age 65 or older a minimum income.

home buyers plan (HBP) — A program that allows holders of an RRSP to borrow from it to help finance the purchase of a home.

home purchase program — A relocation benefit designed to assist employees with the sale or rental of their home, including marketing and property management services.

Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) — A ministry of the federal government that among other responsibilities administers the CPP. Prior to a reorganization in 1993, the CPP was administered by Health and Welfare Canada.

independent contractor — Someone who does work for the employer but is not an employee and therefore is not covered by the employer’s benefits plans.

indexing — Adjusting dollar amounts for the effects of inflation. Also means investing a fund in such a way that it will achieve investment returns that are the same as a stated index of investment performance.

indirect compensation — Employee benefits and any other compensation beyond direct cash pay.

in-house — Means that the employer is performing certain functions itself, such as administering a plan, paying health insurance claims or investing pension fund assets.
insurance — Protection by written contract against the financial hazards (in whole or in part) of the occurrence of specified fortuitous events.

investment policy statement — A communication to the managers of a fund’s assets that details investment guidelines to be followed by the managers.

job sharing — An arrangement in which two employees share the responsibility for one full-time job.

leased employee — A worker who performs the duties of a regular
employee — and may once have been a regular employee — but is paid by and leased by a third-party leasing firm that is the worker’s legal employer.

leave — A benefit that allows employees to take time away from the job without losing employment. Leave may be paid or unpaid; benefits are often continued even during unpaid leave.

long-term disability plan (LTD) — Income insurance designed to replace income lost as a result of the inability to work because of illness or accident, for a specified period.

matching contributions — Payments into a plan by an employer that are proportionate to employee contributions. Matching contributions encourage employees to contribute money.

mobility allowance — A relocation benefit in the form of a lump-sum payment to compensate employees for the disruption of an overseas move, above and beyond direct relocation expenses.

pension — A sum of money paid regularly to an eligible person or to the designated beneficiary of such a person who has retired from employment because of disability or advanced age.

pension adjustment (PA) — The deemed value under the ITA of the retirement benefit earned under registered tax-deferred arrangements. This affects the amount that may be contributed to registered retirement plans, which includes RPP, RRSP and DPSP.

Pension Benefits Act (PBA) — The act in the applicable jurisdiction that governs pensions plans in that jurisdiction. Some acts have this name, but not all do.

Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) — A fund established by Ontario to guarantee vested pensions for service in Ontario. Insurance premiums are paid by employers with covered pension programs.

Pension Commission of Ontario (PCO) — The body formerly responsible for administering the PBA in Ontario; its duties have been taken over by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

pensionable earning — Earnings used for determining benefits. They are not necessarily the same as actual earnings or contributory earnings. See also contributory earnings for examples of earnings that might be excluded from pensionable
earnings.

personal leave — Paid time off, usually only a few days a year, that employees can use for religious observances, to take care of family members, for personal business or to meet other needs.

plan administrator — The person designated by the terms of a plan as being responsible for managing the day-to-day affairs of the plan; frequently the plan sponsor.

policy — The legal document issued by the insurance company to the policyholder that outlines the conditions and terms of the insurance. Also called the policy contract or the contract.

policyholder — The person who owns a life insurance policy. This person is usually the insured person but may also be a relative of the insured person, a partnership or a corporation.

pre-existing condition — A physical and/or mental condition of an insured person that existed prior to the issuance of the policy, or that existed prior to issuance and for which treatment was received. Excluded from coverage under some policies.

recognition programs — Employer acknowledgments of employees’ achievements in such areas as length of service, customer service, attendance, money-saving suggestions, quality, safety and productivity.

Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) — One of the options at maturity under an RRSP. This option does not require the purchase of an annuity, but does require a minimum payout each year.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) — A retirement plan for individuals registered under the ITA.

reserve — The amount required to be carried as a liability on the financial statement of an insurer to provide for future commitments under policies outstanding. Also used to refer to liabilities under pension funds.

retention — The part of an insurance premium that the insurer keeps to cover its expenses and risk, and to provide it with a profit.

retirement benefits — Benefits paid on the retirement of a plan member, usually in the form of a series of payments for life. Most pension plans guarantee either a specified minimum number of payments, or a continuation to a surviving spouse for his or her life.

return-to-work programs — Efforts to reduce workers’ compensation and other disability benefits costs by easing a disabled worker’s return to the work force.

rider — A special policy provision or group of provisions that may be added to a policy to expand or limit the benefits otherwise payable.

Society of Actuaries (SOA) — An international research, education and membership organization for actuaries in the life and health insurance, employee benefits and pension fields. While it is located in the United States, virtually all Canadian actuaries are members.

straight life insurance — Whole life insurance on which premiums are payable for life.

supplemental benefits — Benefits that are provided by a pension plan in addition to the plan’s main retirement benefits. They vary according to the terms of the particular pension plan, but they usually include benefits that are paid in the event of termination, death, disability or early retirement. Also included are enhanced benefits such as indexing. Also called ancillary benefits.

supplemental retirement arrangement — A retirement plan for a highly paid employee or executive that provides benefits over and above those provided to the employee by the registered plan, and usually above the limits set by Revenue Canada. Also called a supplemental executive retirement plan (SERP).

surplus — The excess of the actuarial value of the assets over the actuarial accrued benefit liability.

survivor income — A form of group life insurance that provides death benefits in the form of a pension, usually for a spouse.

survivors’ benefits — The periodic amounts, if any, payable for life to the surviving spouse of a contributor, or pensioner, but sometimes broadened to include benefits to orphans and the lump sum death benefit.

tranche — An amount between specified limits; in the vernacular, sometimes called a “slice,” “band” or “portion.”

trust — A legal entity that holds assets that belong to another.

trust fund — A fund in which the assets are managed by a trustee or a board of trustees for the benefit of another party or parties.

underwriter — The person who reviews the application for insurance and decides if the application should be accepted, and at what premium rate. It also is used to mean the insurance company, and sometimes the insurance agent.

unfunded — The portion of the costs of a pension plan or its actuarial liabilities that has not been paid to a funding agency.

vacationable earnings — Earnings on which vacation pay is based. Like pensionable earnings, various items, such as overtime, may be excluded.

vesting — A benefits standard that gives the employee the right to all benefits accrued regardless of continued service with the employer. All employee contributions are always fully vested; employer contributions are vested according to minimum schedules in the various PBAs.

waiting period — The length of time before benefits are available or before an individual may participate in a plan.

waiver — An agreement by an employee, the employee’s spouse or other beneficiary to give up a right or entitlement. For a waiver to be legally enforceable, the person must understand what is being given up, and act voluntarily.

This information was excerpted from Carswell’s Benefits Guide which contains more than 600 pension and benefits definitions. By J. Bruce MacDonald. To order, call 1-800-387-5164.

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