COVID-19 : Temporary Relief Measures For Supplemental Pension Plans

COVID-19 : Temporary Relief Measures For Supplemental Pension Plans

Retirement and Benefits

Issue 20-08
April 16, 2020


The new coronavirus epidemic is upsetting economies and financial markets around the world. While most pension funds are experiencing significant investment losses, plan administrators and regulators must deal with social distancing and learn to get their work done remotely. In the last few days, the country's various regulators have announced administrative relief measures, specific measures restricting transfers that can be made from pension plans as well as, in some jurisdictions, relief on funding requirements. This newsletter takes a closer look at them. 

Transfer Restrictions

Several jurisdictions have announced various measures aimed at mitigating the negative impact that paying out commuted values can have on a pension plan at a time when it has suffered investment losses and interest rates have fallen.  

Pension plans under Quebec jurisdiction

On April 16, 2020, Retraite Quebec announced that all benefit settlements that will take place from this date to December 31, 2020 must be calculated using the degree of solvency estimated as at March 31, 2020 or as at the last business day of the month prior to the date where the value of a member’s benefit is established, if such date is later. Retraite Quebec justified this measure by stating that it aims to protect members and beneficiaries that remain in the plan and to avoid increases in amortization payments should cash outflows be too large, all while continuing to allow members to transfer their benefits out of a plan and to access funds to satisfy their own liquidity requirements. 

Following this last point on the potential need for access to liquidity, Retraite Quebec also adopted a temporary measure making it possible for anyone under the age of 70 as at December 31, 2019 to withdraw funds from a LIF in 2020:  up to 40% of the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings, or $23,480 in 2020, without regard for income from any other source. 

Pension plans under federal jurisdiction 

On March 27, 2020, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions – the body responsible for overseeing federally regulated pension plans – implemented a full freeze on commuted value transfers and annuity purchases for defined benefit pension plans until further notice. The directive specifies that it is given with the aim of protecting the interests of plan members and beneficiaries.  

This directive will be re-evaluated over the coming months. Meantime, a plan administrator can request the superintendent’s consent to a transfer or annuity purchase based on plan-specific circumstances. An FAQ on these measures has been posted. 

Pension plans under Ontario jurisdiction

Since 2009, Ontario legislation provides that when a plan's transfer ratio has decreased by more than 10% from the last filed actuarial valuation report, no commuted value transfer or annuity purchase can take place without the regulator’s consent. In practice, the plan administrator must request permission from the regulator to resume transfer payments. This request must include a contemporary projection of the plan’s transfer ratio. In light of recent events, it is likely that numerous plans registered in Ontario are in this situation. 

Pension plans under Alberta or British Columbia jurisdictions

Although regulators in these jurisdictions have not published new directives regarding benefit transfers during the present crisis, provincial laws provide that a pension plan administrator cannot, without the regulator’s consent, proceed with a transfer if it would impair the solvency of the plan. In the present context, many plans have a lower solvency ratio than in their last full actuarial valuation. The superintendent invites plan administrators to consult with their office for further information on how this measure is applied.   

Administrative relief concerning filing dates

The table below presents a summary of the extensions provided in various jurisdictions for the filing of specific documents. 


Information Return

Valuation Report

Annual Member


+3 months +3 months   +3 months  
   Alberta1 +180 days +180 days2  

+180 days  

   British Colombia

+60 days +90 days   +60 days  

   New Brunswick3

+30 days +30 days   No change  

   Nova Scotia

Documents due on March 31st or  
April 30th must be filed by May 31st  
No change  


+60 days +60 days2   No change  


+3 months +3 months   +3 months  


+3 months No change   +3 months  

(1) Exclusively for documents that must be filed between March 31st and July 1st, 2020.  
(2) Except off-cycle valuations. 
(3) Only if the due date was prior to April 30th, 2020.  
(4) The plan administrator must submit a request on the Financial Services Regulatory Authority’s portal.  
(5) Only if the due date was between March 31st and July 31st, 2020. 

In British Columbia, collectively bargained multi-employer plans are also entitled to a 30-day extension to send out individual termination statements if the end of their plan year is December 31st.  

In Quebec, the deadline for calling participants to the annual general meeting has also been extended to December 31, 2020. 

Funding requirements 

Pension plans under Quebec jurisdiction

Despite the present situation, the deadlines for making payments to the pension fund have not been extended and no measures have been planned to modify the funding requirements of the pension plans. In its press release, Retraite Quebec reminds us that, under the SPP Act, an actuarial valuation must be filed at least every 3 years. Therefore, a plan could choose to prepare and file a valuation as of December 31, 2019, even if it is not required. 

Pension plans under federal jurisdiction

On April 15, 2020, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced a moratorium on the application of solvency payment requirements for defined benefit plans until the end of 2020. The government will make a decision over the next few months on possible funding relief for 2021. 


There are several exceptions to the guidelines for transfer payments and administrative relief for regulatory filings. Furthermore, the situation is changing quickly, and existing guidelines could be modified, or new guidelines added. We invite you to contact your SAI consultant for more information about the specific situation applicable to your plan.  

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