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Ontario introducing new ORPP legislation

pensionOn April 14, 2016, the Ontario government introduced new legislation to launch the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) legislation. Bill 186, Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Act (Strengthening Retirement Security for Ontarians), 2016 will ensure that if the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is not enhanced, Ontario can proceed with the ORPP. However, the Ontario government says it remains committed to working with the federal government to enhance the CPP.

Bill 186 also establishes the details of the plan design, the rules on participation and contribution and benefits levels.

The plan will begin enrolment for employers on January 1, 2017, with contributions beginning on January 1, 2018. The introduction of ORPP legislation. Large and medium employers are not required to start contributing before January 1, 2018 and small employers are not required to start contributing before January 1, 2019.

Employees are required to contribute in respect of employment for which the employee does not participate in a workplace plan that is comparable to the ORPP. However, employers may opt into the ORPP in respect of employees who participate in a comparable workplace pension plan.

When Bill 186 is enacted into law, the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Act, 2015 will be repealed.

Employers that fail to comply with the rules under the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan could face administrative monetary penalties of up to $10,000, according to Bill 186.

Specifically, Bill 186 defines in the law the plan design details, including participation, contributions, benefit types, and plan sustainability that were discussed in fact sheets in 2015 and 2016. Bill 186 also ensures employers and employees across the province have the information needed to prepare for implementation.

The government will continue to formalize additional plan design details, including those that have been previously announced, in regulations expected this summer and in future legislation.

Overview of the Legislation provided by the Ontario Ministry of Finance

Participation and eligibility: Workers between 18 – 70 years old: By 2020, every eligible worker aged 18 to 70 in Ontario would be part of the ORPP or a comparable workplace plan. A member would be required to stop contributing when they reach 70 years of age.

Self-employed and non-crown federally-regulated workers: Individuals who work in industries such as banks, telecommunications, railway and air transportation would not be eligible to participate at this time, due to the current structure of federal income tax and pension rules. The province is currently in discussions with the federal government to support the participation of federally-regulated employees and the self-employed in the ORPP.

First Nations: On-reserve First Nations employers and their employees would have the option to opt-in to the ORPP.

Religious exemptions: Individuals who object to participation in the ORPP on religious grounds may apply to the ORPP AC for an exemption. Future regulations will lay out the criteria for a religious exemption which would follow a similar approach to CPP.

Definition of Ontario employee: A person would be considered employed in Ontario if they report to work, full- or part-time, at an employer’s establishment in Ontario. This also applies to a worker whose salary or hourly wages are paid from an Ontario-based employer, but who is not required to work at an employer’s place of business (e.g., work from a home office).

Employer duties: Employers would be required to pay contributions on behalf of each of the eligible workers employed in Ontario, and also to collect and remit contributions from those workers.

Employer and employee contributions: Employees and employers would each contribute 1.9 per cent of the employee’s annual earnings up to $90,000 (2017 dollars). The full contribution rate would be phased in over time based on the size of the business.

Contributions held in trust: All contributions would be held in trust and invested for the benefit of the members of the plan, and would not form part of general government revenues.

Benefit types: The plan would offer two benefits: a retirement benefit paid for life and a survivor benefit (payable to a surviving spouse, beneficiary or an estate).

The ORPP is designed to provide plan members a 15 per cent income replacement rate after 40 years of contributing to the plan. A member would be eligible to begin collecting a benefit at 65, with actuarially adjusted benefits as early as 60 or as late as 70. The ORPP would begin paying benefits in 2022.

Indexation: The amount of money an individual receives from the ORPP after they retire would depend on how many years they contribute to the pension plan and their salary throughout those years. Pension benefits, contributions and the maximum earnings threshold would be indexed to inflation.

Survivor benefits:

  • Pre-retirement death: If a member dies before retirement, a lump sum will be paid to their spouse, beneficiary or estate.
  • Post-retirement death (without a spouse): If a member retires without a spouse, they would receive a full pension. If the member dies within 10 years of retirement, the remaining value of their pension up to 10 years after retirement, will be paid to their beneficiary or estate.
  • Post-retirement death (with a spouse): If a member retires and has a spouse, they will receive a joint survivor pension. This means that their retirement benefit is adjusted, and when they die, their spouse would receive a survivor benefit for life.

10-Year guarantee period: The member and their spouse can choose to waive the survivor benefit and get a full pension with a 10-year guarantee period. If the member dies within 10 years of retirement, the remaining value of their pension, up to 10 years after retirement, will be paid to their spouse.

Comparable plans: The ORPP would be mandatory for employees and employers without a comparable workplace pension plan. Comparable workplace pension plans are registered pension plans that meet a minimum benefit/contribution threshold:

  • Defined benefit (DB) plans – where an employee’s earnings history is considered as part of their retirement income calculation, the annual benefit accrual rate must be at least 0.5 percent
  • Defined contribution (DC) plans – must have a minimum total contribution rate of 8 per cent, with employers contributing at least half that amount (voluntary contributions would not be applicable for the purposes of the ORPP comparability test)
  • Multi-employer pension plans (MEPP) – individual employers would have the option to assess the pension benefit comparability of their plan by using either the DB accrual or DC contribution rate threshold
  • Pooled-registered pension plans (PRPP) – when available in Ontario, a benefit/contribution threshold will be set for PRPPs.

Should future pension plan innovations address the principles of comparability that the government has identified, the government remains open to examining those plans for comparability. A plan’s comparability would be assessed at the “subset” level of employees within a pension plan. A subset of members could exist where a pension plan provides for different contribution rates or benefit structures for employees, based on:

  • The nature of the member’s employment
  • The terms of employment, years of service
  • Whether or not the member belongs to a union
  • Members who belong to a subset would be subject to the same contribution or benefit structure.

Contribution waves: Contributions to the ORPP would occur in waves, starting on January 1, 2018, depending on the size of the employer. Employer size would be based on the number of T4s that were issued to Ontario employees in 2015.

Opt-in: Employers that have comparable workplace pension plans would be able to opt-in to the ORPP starting in 2020. This includes if a decision to opt-in is made as part of a collective bargaining negotiation. An employer that elects to opt-in must do so for all of its employees.

ORPP administration corporation (ORPP AC): This bill will enable the ORPP AC to continue implementing the ORPP. The ORPP AC is the independent, arms-length organization that will administer the ORPP, including investing in opportunities that maximize returns for plan members. Its broad responsibilities include enrolling members, collecting and investing contributions in trust, administering benefits, and communicating with employers, members and other beneficiaries. The ORPP AC will determine where and how contributions are invested.

Plan sustainability: The government has designed the ORPP to be sustainable over the long term. This act would establish a formal funding policy to guide the actions of the ORPP AC and the government in the event of a funding shortfall or excess.

To support transparency and accountability regarding plan sustainability, the government is committed to introducing legislation this fall that would establish an Office of the Chief Actuary. This office would provide the government and the ORPP AC with expert and impartial advice and guidance.

Compliance and enforcement: This bill would establish the ORPP AC’s compliance and enforcement framework to encourage employers and plan members to comply with ORPP legislation, address issues of non-compliance, and create a way to resolve disputes.

The compliance and enforcement framework would apply to all stages of the administration of the ORPP, from the employer verification process to the collection of contributions and the payment of benefits.

The ORPP AC would be permitted to administer fines. Employers who fail to deduct or remit contributions would be charged interest on late payments.

Review period: The ORPP would be reviewed five years after its full implementation to help ensure the plan is meeting its intended objectives. Subsequent reviews of the ORPP would occur every 10 years.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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