Western's pension plans (Administrative Plan for staff members and Academic Plan for faculty members) are among the most valuable benefits offered by Western University - designed to help you save and invest for your future. The combined market value of the plans as of January 1, 2021 was approximately $1.27 billion.
Sun Life Financial provides day-to-day member services and administration of the plans. Western's Joint Pension Board, with elected faculty and staff representatives, provides governance and oversight of the plans.
Western's pension plans are called defined contribution plans - a type of capital accumulation plan in which contributions are made to the plan by both the University and the member. The account balance grows with contributions and investment income and a pension income is created from the account balance at retirement.
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About your Pension Plan
- Pension Plan Summary - outlines the main features of the Western pension plans, including eligibility, contributions and terminating membership in the plan
- Frequently Asked Questions - about your Western pension plan
Regular full-time faculty and staff are eligible to join the plan when they join Western. Other employees may be eligible depending on circumstances. Brescia and Huron are participating employers in the Western Pension Plans. See the Plan Summary for full eligibility details. If you are a contract employee, there are two ways to qualify to join the plan:
- If your employment earnings from Western or a participating employer have been at least 21% of the year's maximum pensionable earnings* in the last two consecutive calendar years, you will be offered enrolment effective January 1st of the following year. This means your Western T4 earnings in 2019 must have been a minimum of $12,054, and for 2020, a minimum of $12,327; OR,
- If you have earned at least 21% or more of the year's maximum pensionable earnings* from employment at Western or a participating employer in the last two consecutive calendar years (minimum $12,054 in 2019 and $12,327 in 2020), and as well you have 24 months of continual service, you will be offered enrolment the first of the following month.
If you qualify using one of the above eligibility criteria, you will be contacted by Sun Life, so it is not necessary for you to track this information. If however, you believe you have met the qualification criteria, or believe you qualify based on your combined employment with participating employers, please email email@example.com and we will investigate.
Participation in the plans is voluntary for faculty and staff who are not regular full-time employees, however, we encourage you to use the pension plan to support your retirement savings. Depending on the plan for which you qualify (Academic Pension Plan or Administrative Pension Plan), your contribution can range from 1.5% to 5.5% and Western's contributions start at 7.5%.
Read an FAQ on eligibility in the Western Pension Plans
* The year's maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) is the maximum amount of earnings on which contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) are based. You can get information on the CPP pensionable earnings ceiling from the Canada Revenue Agency website.
Your pension savings could be your most important financial asset. The decisions you make about your pension savings can have a big impact on your retirement income. Your decisions and responsibilities as a member include:
- Designating and maintaining your beneficiary designations for your account with Sun Life.
- Choose the right investments to meet your personal goals.
- Electing whether to make additional voluntary contributions to grow your savings faster (see heading Increasing Your Savings with Voluntary Contributions below).
- Deciding when and how to create a pension income from your savings.
Your account balance will fluctuate depending on your contributions and on the performance of the investments you have chosen. The retirement income you will receive at retirement is not guaranteed and also depends on the investments you have chosen and the returns on those investments. Currently, there are 13 investment options for Plan members.
Sun Life Financial can provide helpful information, investment advice and assistance as you choose your investments and manage your account. You'll find detailed account information and many great resources on the member website at mysunlife.ca/western.
The following documents and information on the Western website may also be helpful:
In addition to the required contributions (a description is available in the Plan Summary), Western allows members to make additional monthly pension contributions that can enhance your retirement income.
Voluntary Contributions are taken from "pre-tax" dollars, so income tax deducted from your pay will be lower to reflect the amount you are committing to your pension. In essence, you will receive an immediate tax benefit on every pay.
- will be invested the same way as your regular member contributions;
- may be withdrawn as cash from your account at any time by contacting Sun Life. Note: Sun Life charges active members of the plan an administration fee of $25 per withdrawal and savings are taxable in the year they are withdrawn;
- can be started, stopped or changed at any time. Visit mysunlife.ca/western or contact the Sun Life Financial Customer Care Centre at 1-866-733-8612 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET on any business day. Please allow 1-2 pays for the changes to take effect.
Canada Revenue Agency sets a maximum amount you can contribute to your pension account each year. Total contributions include those made by Western and by you (required and voluntary) and must not be more than 18 percent of pay or a specific dollar limit set annually by the government, whichever is lower.
The Western Pension Plan accepts direct transfers from RRSP and LIRA accounts, as well as certain types of transfers from other pension plans. Contact the Sun Life Financial Customer Care Centre at 1-866-733-8612 for more information.
Valuation and Division of Pension Benefits on the Breakdown of a Marriage
When a marriage or common-law relationship ends, your pension may be affected, and your ex-spouse may be entitled to part of your pension savings. Here is information that may assist you in understanding the steps to take to determine the value of your pension, and to meet your legal obligations for division of your pension assets.
Step 1 - Obtain a Statement of Family Law Value
You and your ex-spouse must complete an Application for Family Law Value. Ontario legislation has made this application mandatory for all members since January 1, 2012. The application will be submitted to Sun Life Financial for review.
- Go to FSCO Family Law Form 1 - Application for Family Law Value
- Read the FSCO Family Law Form 1 User Guide
Along with completing the FSCO Family Law Form 1, please:
- Complete a FSCO Family Law Form 2 - Joint Declaration of Period of Spousal Relationship
- Review the User Guide for the Family Law Form 2
- Include other required documents as outlined in the Family Law Form 1
- Include a payment cheque for $200.00 payable to Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada
- If you wish to authorize a third party to submit the application on your behalf, then a FSCO Family Law Form 3 - Contact Person Authorization will also be required.
Once completed, the forms, all necessary documents and the payment of the fee should be forwarded to:
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada
Group Retirement Services
Attn.: Marriage Breakdown Team
P.O. Box 11001, Station Centre-Ville
Montreal QC H3C 3P3
Step 2 – Sun Life will review your forms and provide a valuation of your pension
Sun Life will review your application and will prepare a FSCO Family Law Form 4A "Statement of Family Law Value (Defined Contribution Benefit)". This will be forwarded to you and to your ex-spouse. It will indicate the amount that accrued during the period of marriage, the maximum amount that may be transferred to the former spouse and information on what steps to take to request a division of pension benefits.
Note: Additional voluntary contributions (AVC) are not included in the calculations and the parties are free to deal with that portion as they see fit in their agreement or court order. If there are no provisions for the AVCs, then no division of AVCs will be executed. AVCs are not locked-in and may be transferred to an RRSP. The remaining funds will be subject to locked-in provisions and the options for the former spouse will be a transfer to another pension plan, a LIRA, a LIF or annuity.
Step 3 - Division of the member's pension benefits
When in receipt of the Family Law Form 4A - Statement of Family Law Value (sent by Sun Life), the former spouse will be eligible to submit a request for the division of the member's pension benefits, by completing a FSCO Family Law Form 5 - Application to Transfer the Family Law Value. A copy of a court order or domestic contract/agreement must be included, along with any other required documents.
As well, a Canada Revenue Agency form T2151 must also be completed by the former spouse to direct the actual transfer and the financial institution receiving the funds will need to complete a Locked-in form confirming that your locked-in pension funds will be transferred to a locked-in account (LIRA, Locked-in RRSP).
The division of your pension will be executed within 60 days of Sun Life receiving all necessary requirements, provided that the amount allocated to the former spouse does not exceed the limit prescribed by law. There are no taxes withheld on the transferred funds in a marriage breakdown.
More information, a tutorial and other assistance is available on the Ontario FSCO website.
The personal information of Western employees and retirees that is collected to ensure the administration of an employee's pension account is shared only with the providers supporting the administration of the program. All personal information is handled in accordance with Western's statement on the Protection of Privacy.
Western's has contracted with Sun Life Financial to provide specific supports and services for our members through Sun Life's Group Retirement Services division, including support from the company's licenced, salaried employees. Sun Life receives information including a member's name, home address, social insurance number, date of birth, and salary. This information is transmitted using a secure FTP process. Sun Life uses the information only for the administration of the pension account and does not sell or share information, including with other providers. As members manage their Western pension account under Sun Life, they may share further information including spousal status and the names of beneficiaries, and may give consent to receive additional material regarding optional Sun Life programs that can assist with managing their personal finances.
Local Sun Life advisors and offices are not part of the Sun Life Group Retirement Services division and do not provide services related to the Western pension plans. Neither the University nor Sun Life provides member information, including home address and Western email address to any external financial advisor, including local Sun Life advisors.
Further details on privacy at Western can be found on the University Secretariat website.
Solicitations from External Advisors
Western's Joint Pension Board is aware that Pension Plan members and retirees may receive communications from financial advisors external to Western. Beyond the agreement in place with Sun Life, neither Western nor the Joint Pension Board endorses any external specific advisor or institution.
Members are encouraged to seek the support they need from Sun Life and from other professionals as appropriate. Members looking for further financial planning support are encouraged to review resources available from FP Canada.
What to do if you have received unwanted promotional correspondence
Keep in mind that:
- Your name, Western title and contact information that is posted on Western websites is not considered personal information and, in most cases, is available to the general public.
- Canada's Unsolicited Telecommunications rules may permit communication if you have an existing business relationship with an organization.
Financial institutions are required to abide by PIPEDA - the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act which governs the collection and use of personal data. If you are receiving unwanted communications, there is action you can take.
If unwanted communications regarding pension/financial services are coming to your Western email or office please contact the sender to request that this stop and also let Western Human Resources know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If unwanted communications are coming to your home address:
- Contact the sender to request that you be removed from their mailing list
- Consider removing your name and address from Canada Post's database. Visit the Canada Post website for more information.
If unwanted communications are coming to your personal phone or email please review the following websites:
Important: Local Sun Life advisors and offices are not part of the Group Retirement Services division and do not provide Western pension plan member services.
Each of Western's pension plans (Academic Plan and Administrative Plan) is administered by a Pension Board consisting of up to four elected members of the respective plan and three appointed members who are common on both Boards. The Academic and Administrative Staff Pension Boards work together as the Joint Pension Board. The Boards are standing committees of the Board of Governors and have been delegated the responsibility of administering the pension plans.
Sun Life Financial has been selected by the Board to handle most of the day-to-day member services and administration of the plans. Western Human Resources also assists in administration of the plan, especially at the time of enrolment in the Plan, at termination or retirement, and in liaising with Sun Life Financial.
Pension Board Election Results - March 2021
Administrative Pension Board - Following nominations held in early March, Katey Senese, Financial Officer in the Faculty of Education has been acclaimed to the position on the Administrative Staff Pension Board effective July 1, 2021. Congratulations Katey!
Academic Pension Board - Many thanks to all those who participated, and those who voted online in elections held March 22-24, 2021.
Saurin Patel, Assistant Professor at Ivey Business School has been elected to service a full-term position (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2025).
Shahbaz Sheikh, Associate Professor in DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies has been elected to serve a partial term position (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2023).
A special thank you to Steve Kopp and Donna Kotsopoulos (Academic Board) and Elana Whelan (Administrative Board), who will finish current terms on the Board June 30, 2021.
Full results are available on the Simply Voting website.
- Policy and Governance
- Joint Pension Board Membership
- Pension Board Member Job Description
- Education Program for Pension Board Members (Fiduciary Education)
- Selecting, Reviewing and Replacing Investment Managers
Pension Board Mission Statement
"Our Mission is to provide members with the opportunity to accumulate adequate funds for retirement. We seek to provide sufficient choices but not onerous choices. We seek to provide services and options on a cost effective basis to accommodate members who are active in the management of their retirement savings and also for those members who look to the board for guidance. We will provide these services and options while following our principles."
Board Duties, Principles and Strategies
The Joint Pension Board:
- A governing board, the majority represented by elected pension plan members who volunteer their service
- A sub-committee of the Board of Governors given the responsibility of administering the pension plans with assistance from investment, actuarial, legal and communication consultants
- Deals with policies relating to investment structure and management, communication to members and administration of accounts
- Day-to-day operation of the pension plans is the function of Human Resource Services in collaboration with Sun Life Financial, in accordance with policies and procedures set out by the Joint Pension Board
- Seeks to:
- offer members broad and diversified choice of investment and retirement vehicles;
- maintain fairness among members in plan operations;
- provide investment alternatives which possess high liquidity;
- assist members in making well informed decisions about investment and retirement alternatives;
- solicit information about and be responsive to members’ preferences;
- use prudence in assessing and reviewing plan decisions and operations;
- assure cost effective administration of plan operation
- The Joint Pension Board has a preference for passive management of investments.
Audited Financial Statements
Most transactions for your pension plan can be conducted through mysunlife.ca/western but the following forms are managed by Western.
- Supplemental Pension Arrangement - Beneficiary Designation Form
- UWOFA Pension Contribution Change Form - UWOFA Pension Plan members who joined the plan on November 16, 2010 or before, may use this form to increase their contributions from 1.5% to 5.5 %.
Documents & Presentations
Sun Life Financial offers a variety of ways to access your account, and get the help you need with your Western Pension. Whether you are a new member with questions, or getting set to retire, the help you need is available. Learn more about how to get the assistance you need.
Sun Life Education Consultants are available in April and May 2021 to meet with you 1:1 (online) to address your questions and plan your financial future. Visit the webpage Sun Life Financial - Get Help with Your Pension.
Retiring or Leaving Western
When you are retiring from Western or when you leave Western before retirement, you have options when it comes to the savings in your Western Pension Plan account.
Sun Life Financial will provide you with further details, and with information and support.
Western and Sun Life Financial are pleased to provide members of our pension plans with a wide variety of webinars, videos, and special presentations throughout the year.
Other Pension Information
Sometimes, a Pension Plan member's Required Contributions to their regular Western pension account, combined with the University's contribution to the member's account, exceed the total contributions permitted under the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) contribution limit for the year. The Supplemental Pension Arrangement (SPA) is a plan that provides a notional account for Western's contributions that are in excess of the CRA limit.
This occurs for higher earners; if a member expects to make more than $187,000 in 2018, they may be impacted. This is based on a 5.5% required contribution rate and a 9% employer contribution rate. A member's contribution rates may be lower than that, in which case the threshold to exceed the CRA limit would be higher. In determining whether there is a SPA amount, voluntary contributions are not considered - only the member's required contributions and the employer's contributions.
The SPA is a plan that provides a notional account. A SPA account holder does not direct the investment options for this account. The SPA accounts are credited with the same return realized by The University of Western Ontario's Operating and Endowment investment funds.
Members receive an annual SPA statement outlining the amounts added to and deducted from their notional contribution accounts and the gross value of their notional account under the SPA at December 31st of the prior year.
Sun Life Financial provides recordkeeping services for the SPA. The University is solely responsible for the payment of benefits under the SPA.
Beneficiary designations for your notional benefits under the SPA are maintained on file in Western Human Resources. You may make changes to your designated beneficiaries at any time by completing the Supplemental Pension Arrangement Beneficiary Designation Form.
Retiring or Leaving Western
A member leaving Western may elect to receive the balance in the notional SPA account in equal annual installments over a number of years designated by the member (not more than fifteen). A one-time lump sum payment option may also be available.
If the account balance of a terminating member is less than 20% of the Year's Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) then the University will settle the account as a lump sum payment to be made at the end of the month following the end of employment. For example, the YMPE in 2019 was $57,400. If a terminating member's SPA account balance is less than $11,480 the account will be settled in a lump sum.
Members planning to leave Western should contact Western Human Resources at 519-661-2194 to discuss options and any restrictions that may apply to payout of the SPA account.
The SPA is credited with the same return realized by Western's Operating and Endowment funds. Here are some links to view returns.
Liquidating Trust units have matured and the fund is closed
Pension Plan members who continued to hold Liquidating Trust (LT) in their pension account as of June 2017, were advised to make an investment change, because, as anticipated, units held in the Liquidating Trust had substantially matured. Read more about Liquidating Trust.
Western Human Resources provides a Pension Plan Glossary to assist you in understanding some of the terms used in connection with Western Retirement Plans. If you have further questions, please contact the Human Resources Communication Centre at 519-661-2194 or email email@example.com.
Questions & Answers regarding the Pension Plan for those who are not Regular Full-time Employees
This Q & A is designed to address some of the common questions from members who are not regular full-time employees, and who are considering the university's offer to join the pension plan.
- I don’t plan to be at Western for very long. Should I still join?
- I will be leaving Canada when I finish at Western. Should I still join?
- Will I be able to cash out this account?
- I don’t know anything about investing. Can you help?
- Can I make changes to my investments?
- What happens if I become regular full-time at Western?
- Why is there a waiting period at the end?
- Can I withdraw from the pension plan at any time?
- Can I discuss this with someone?
- How do I know if I am eligible to join the plan?
- I received an application but missed the deadline to join?
- How do I submit my application?
This is free money! Whether you are a member for a few months or many years, you own all the money in your account, including the money contributed by your employer.
Members who anticipate a short participation in the plan are more likely to invest in cash/money market investments that have a low risk of loss over the short term.
Remember to review/update your home address in My Human Resources before you leave!
Probably, as you do not want to miss out on the employer contributions!
- You may decide to leave the money invested in a Canadian retirement account and can draw upon those funds in retirement (taxable as you withdraw it); OR...,
- You may apply to cash out the account once you have been a non-resident of Canada for at least two years (taxable as a lump sum). Your account must first be transferred to a Locked-in Retirement Account (LIRA) at a financial institution.
- Remember to review/update your home address in My Human Resources before you leave!
It depends. Pension regulations determine what portion of your account is designated as “locked-in” pension money, and what portion is not “locked-in”. Your options for the two types of savings are different. If you are eligible and elect to cash out, you will be required to pay income tax.
Western's Joint Pension Board has organized 13 different investment options in a structure that offers broad diversification and choice. The “right” mix of investments is different for each member and may be influenced by your anticipated length of participation in the plan.
Sun Life offers a number of online tools and advice from professionals to assist you in making the right decision.
Yes. Each member is responsible for deciding how to invest their own account. You can make changes to your investments at mysunlife.ca/western on any business day.
If you become a regular full-time employee you will have options to join the pension plan (Academic for faculty members or Administrative Plan for staff members). Your status will change from non full-time to full-time. The contribution levels are determined by your employee group agreement. The investment options and member support remain the same. There is no waiting period for full-time members.
Contributions will stop when employment terminates, but your pension funds remain in the plan for six months after termination. Your account remains invested at your direction during this time. Many non-regular full-time members have sessional employment whereby a short period of time may pass between contracts. The waiting period allows you to immediately resume pension contributions if you regain employment within six months. You won't have to wait for two years to qualify again.
No, once you join you will remain a member for the duration of your employment plus six months with no contributions. Regular contributions from you and Western will be made so long as you have qualifying employment income from Western. If you have elected to make additional Voluntary contributions, these may be changed or stopped at any time.
Contact Sun Life for more information about the Plan, assistance in completing enrolment and ongoing support regarding the decisions you may make on your account.
If you become eligible to join the plan, you will be contacted and provided information. It is not necessary for you to determine this information. If you receive an offer to join the plan and do not accept at that time, you will need to re-qualify in order to join at a later date. If however, you believe you are eligible, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will investigate.
Please contact Human Resources at email@example.com to request a review of your current eligibility to join.
Just follow the instructions in the letter or email you received from Sun Life Financial.
If you require Human Resources forms, documents or other information in an alternative format, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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