A to Z

Pensions can be complicated. This glossary can help explain the language.


  Active member A member who is currently making contributions to the pension plan, on an approved leave of absence, receiving benefits from an approved long-term disability plan or no longer contributing once they’ve reached latest retirement age.
  Actuary A financial professional who independently conducts a review of the plan’s funded position.
  Actuarial valuation A review of the plan’s funded position, done at least every three years by the actuary.
The valuation determines the financial position of the plan and the future contribution rates needed to ensure its long-term funding. The actuary determines how much money the plan needs to pay pensions by making assumptions about future investment returns, future inflation rates, future increases in salaries, retirement ages, life expectancy and other factors.
  Arrears A period of time when you and your employer should have contributed to the plan but did not.


  Beneficiary The person(s), trustee(s) or organization(s) that are designated to receive your pension after you die.
If you have a spouse, they automatically become your primary beneficiary (unless they waived that right).
  Benefit A monetary amount, such as a pension or commuted value, payable under the plan to you or your beneficiary.
  Bridge benefit A temporary monthly amount paid in addition to the lifetime pension.
It is payable from your retirement date until you turn 65 or die, whichever comes first.


  Child-rearing The time you took off work to care full-time for a child under age seven. You can get credit for child-rearing time to increase your contributory service, which could help you quality for an unreduced pension before you reach age 60.
  Commuted value A lump-sum value based on the amount of money the pension plan would need to put aside today, at current interest rates, to pay for your future pension at retirement.
  Compassionate care leave Time taken away from work to provide care and support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.
You may be eligible to buy back this time.
  Consumer price index (CPI) A measure of the rate of price changes for goods and services bought by Canadian consumers.
It is one of the factors used to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments for pensions.
  Contributory service You get a month of contributory service for every month during which you make a contribution to the plan (or are deemed to have made a contribution). It’s used to determine if your pension will be reduced and by how much.
  Cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) A non-guaranteed increase to your monthly pension payment. COLA is based on the Canadian consumer price index and is applied to your pension in January each year if there are sufficient funds in the plan’s inflation adjustment account. COLA is granted at the discretion of the WorkSafeBC pension committee.


  Deferred pension If you stop working and contributing to the plan and do not take your pension, you may apply to receive a pension in the future.
  Defined benefit plan A pension plan that provides you a lifetime pension based on a specific benefit formula.
Your entitlement to a lifetime pension is independent of contributions and determined by a formula that includes factors such as your highest average salary, how much service you earned and a set accrual rate.
  Dependent Your spouse or child (under 19 or a full-time student under 25).
  Disability pension A monthly pension payment payable to you if you are totally and permanently disabled before age 60 and not eligible for long-term disability benefits.


  Earliest retirement age The earliest age you can start receiving your pension.


  Highest average salary (HAS) The average amount of your salary during each of the highest five years of annual salary. Each of the five years can be from any point in your career within the plan.
It is used to calculate your pension.


  Inactive member A member who has terminated their employment and kept their money in the pension plan but is not currently receiving a pension from the plan.
  Inflation adjustment account (IAA) An account that holds a portion of member and employer contributions, earning investment income.
It funds cost-of-living adjustments that may be granted on top of retired members’ monthly pension income to help offset the effects of inflation.


  Joint life option A monthly pension guaranteed to be paid for your lifetime and your spouse’s lifetime. Should you die before your spouse, they will receive your monthly pension (or a portion of your monthly pension) for the remainder of their life.


  Latest retirement age (LRA) The latest age you can start receiving your pension.
You must start receiving your pension by December 1 of the calendar year you turn 71.
  Leave of absence An employer-approved absence from work, with or without pay.
You may be eligible to buy back time for the period and this may increase your pension.
  Lifetime pension The portion of a pension paid out over your lifetime. Depending on the option you select at retirement, payment may continue to your beneficiary(ies).
It does not include the bridge benefit or temporary annuity.
  Limited member Your former spouse who applied to the plan to become a “limited member” following your separation or divorce.
They are entitled to a portion of your pension.
  Locked-in Pension plan funds that cannot be paid in cash. They must be used to provide a lifetime pension.


  Marital breakdown Separation or divorce.


  Non-contributory service A period when you worked for your employer but you did not contribute to the plan, because you weren’t eligible to contribute (e.g., probationary period or casual employment).


  Past service A period when you worked for your employer before your employer joined the plan. You may be eligible to buy back past service.
  Pension adjustment The value Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) assigns to your pension that has accumulated in a registered pension plan during a calendar year.
Your pension adjustment is only used to determine your RRSP room for the following calendar year.
  Pensionable salary Portion of your salary used to calculate pension contributions, highest average salary and purchase-of-service costs.
  Pensionable service The actual time you work while contributing to the plan.
This may include service you’ve purchased or transferred from another plan.
  Pre-retirement death benefit A benefit paid by the pension plan to your beneficiary(ies) if you die before retiring.
  Purchase of service Buying back eligible periods of pensionable and contributory service to increase your future pension.


  Reduced pension If you apply for a pension on or after your earliest retirement age, but do not meet the age and contributory service requirements for an unreduced pension, your pension (and bridge benefit, if applicable) will be reduced.
  Retired member A retired member is a person receiving a pension; this includes a person who receives and continues to receive a pension following the death of a member.


  Shortened life expectancy If, before retirement, you have a medically certified terminal illness or disability likely to considerably shorten your life, you may choose to convert your pension, or part of it, to a payment or series of payments for a fixed term.
  Single life option A monthly pension guaranteed to be paid for only your lifetime.
When you retire, you can select a pension option guarantee of 5, 10 or 15 years for a beneficiary. This means if you pass away within the guarantee period, your pension for the remainder of the guarantee period is paid to your beneficiary as a pension or lump sum.
  Spouse Your spouse is someone you are married to and have not been living separate and apart from for a continuous period longer than two years, or someone you have been living with in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.


  Temporary annuity An additional monthly payment you may purchase to increase your monthly pension payments until you turn 65 or die, whichever comes first.
The annuity cost lowers the amount of your lifetime pension.
  Termination of employment You no longer work for your employer.
It also means you end your plan membership.
  Totally and

Suffering from a mental or physical condition that prevents you from engaging in any employment for which you are reasonably suited (by virtue of your education, training or experience) and can reasonably be expected to last for the remainder of your lifetime.

  Transfer agreements or reciprocal transfer agreements An agreement between pension plans that allows you to transfer your eligible service from one pension plan to another.


  Unreduced pension A pension (and bridge benefit, if applicable) with no reductions included in the pension formula.


  Vested Once you have made a contribution to the pension plan you are vested. This means you will be entitled to receive a pension based on the defined benefit formula.


  Year’s maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) A salary limit set by the federal government each year for the purposes of determining the maximum annual contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.
It is used as part of the formula to calculate your contributions and pension benefits.