Leaves, time off and wage changes

If your work situation changes because of COVID-19, your pension could be affected. Learn about your options if you take a leave, have your hours reduced, are temporarily laid off or receive temporary pandemic pay.

Note: all leaves are subject to Income Tax Act limits. Read Taking time off work and buying service for more information.

Employment Standards Act leaves

If you take an unpaid leave, you have the option of buying service for the period of your absence. Leaves taken under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the new COVID-19-related leave, are shared-cost leaves. If you choose to buy service for such a leave, both you and your employer will pay a portion of the purchase cost.

A leave with full pay doesn’t count as a leave because both you and your employer are still contributing to the plan.

General leave and reduced hours

If you take an unpaid leave approved by your employer that isn’t covered under the ESA, you may be able to buy service for this period—it will be treated as general leave. For general leaves, you’ll be required to pay the full cost of the purchase of service.

You may be eligible to buy the service for the difference between your normal (full-assignment) hours and the hours you actually work.

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, all the following must apply:

  • You must have been employed by your employer for at least three years
  • You may only purchase a period of reduced pay that occurs after those three years
  • You must have been working your normal (full-assignment) hours sometime before your hours were reduced

Note: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has temporarily suspended this “three-year work” requirement. Plan members who have worked for their employer for less than 36 months can now make a purchase of service for a period of reduced pay that occurred in 2020 and/or 2021. This amendment applies only to the 2020 and 2021 calendar years.

If you qualified for a period of reduced pay under the relaxed eligibility requirements during this time but have since terminated employment or retired, you may still be able to purchase service. Contact the plan for more information.

If you choose to buy this service, it will be treated as a general leave. You’ll be required to pay both your share and your employer’s share of the cost.

Leave because of non-compliance with a mandatory vaccine policy

Section 52.12 of the ESA entitles you to unpaid COVID-19-related leave in certain circumstances, but non-compliance with a vaccine mandate is not one of those circumstances. If you are on leave for this reason, the leave is considered a general leave.

If the leave is unpaid, you will not earn pensionable or contributory service but may be eligible to buy service.

Layoff periods

You can buy service for a period of layoff as a general leave of absence if:

  • The layoff started on January 1, 2020, or later
  • The layoff is temporary
  • You maintained an employment relationship with your employer during the layoff

You have five years from the end of your layoff period to apply for your purchase, or 30 days after ending employment, whichever comes first.

Temporary pandemic pay

Receiving BC COVID-19 temporary pandemic pay won’t affect your pension.

Because this temporary pandemic pay will be paid as a lump sum, it isn’t considered part of your pensionable salary. Pensionable salary is the portion of your salary used to calculate your pension contributions, highest average salary and purchase-of-service costs.

For more information about BC COVID-19 temporary pandemic pay, contact your employer.

External link for leave and time off

Government of B.C. Employment Standards