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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005

Teachers' pension plan

Two definitions for spouse

Two definitions of spouse are used to administer your benefits in retirement—one for pension benefits and one for post-retirement group benefits (i.e., health and dental). The 2004–05 retirement seminars may have caused some confusion around these definitions, so we would like to clarify what they are and how they are used.

The definition of "spouse" for pension benefit purposes comes from the Pension Benefits Standards Act (PBSA). In this case, spouse means:

• the person you are legally married to and who, for the two-year period immediately before the relevant time (e.g., retirement or death), you were not living separate from


• if the first bullet does not apply, the person, of the same or opposite sex, who has lived and cohabitated with you in a marriage-like relationship for the two-year period immediately before the relevant time.

This means that if you are legally married and have not been separated for two or more years, your legal spouse is your spouse for pension purposes. A common-law spouse is your spouse for pension purposes, if you have lived together for at least the last two years before your retirement or death.

The Teachers’ Pension Plan uses this definition, in compliance with the PBSA, when determining a member’s options at retirement and/or entitlements in the event of a member’s death prior to retirement.

In contrast, post-retirement group benefits (such as health and dental) are not pension benefits and not subject to the PBSA. The definition of "spouse" for post-retirement group benefit purposes comes from the contracts negotiated by the pension board of trustees with the health benefits carrier (i.e., Pacific Blue Cross). In this case, a spouse is:

...a person of the same or opposite sex to whom you are married or living with in a marriage-like relationship.

Note that the post-retirement group benefit contracts also provide that:

If you are in a common-law relationship:

• you must live together for 12 months before applying for [post-retirement] dental and/or extended health benefits coverage for your spouse (unless you are claiming your spouse’s children as dependants on your income tax return).

• you may be required to provide proof that you have been living in a common-law relationship for 12 months or more.

If you leave one common-law relationship and enter another, you must wait 12 months after cancelling [post-retirement group benefit] coverage for your first spouse and dependants before you can enroll another spouse and other dependants.

Your spouse is not entitled to [post retirement group] benefits if they are separated from you for other than health reasons.

The post-retirement group benefits definition is used to determine a person’s eligibility for post-retirement extended health or dental benefits coverage only. (Your extended health (EHB) and dental benefits are not pension benefits. You may choose to enrol or not enrol yourself, your spouse, and your dependants in these benefits, and they are not guaranteed to continue into the future.)

If you have any questions about these definitions, please contact the Teachers’ Pension Plan at 1-800-356-8977.

Changes to TPP enrolment rules

Effective July 1, 2005, the enrolment rules for the Teachers’ Pension Plan changed.

• New employees hired on or after July 1, 2005—All employees, including those employed in a less-than-half-time capacity, must be immediately enrolled in the Teachers’ Pension Plan, and will no longer be allowed to opt out of enrolling in the plan.

• Existing employees as of July 1, 2005—Employees who had previously waived enrolment in the plan must also be enrolled effective July 1, 2005. These employees cannot be retroactively enrolled to their employment start date, and they are not eligible to purchase their prior non-contributory periods of service. The new rule will simplify enrolment for employers and their employees, and will make pension benefits available to all teachers, no matter what their employment status.

10+1 Reasons to attend a pension seminar

  1. You can learn the basics about the Teachers’ Pension Plan (TPP).
  2. You can learn the advantage of purchasing your maternity/ parental leave of absence.
  3. You can find out how much your pension is worth.
  4. You can find out how to increase your pension benefits.
  5. You can find out what happens to your pension if you take a leave of absence, terminate employment as a teacher, or die before retirement.
  6. You can find out how Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits effect your TPP benefits.
  7. You can find out what health benefits are available to you on retirement through the TPP.
  8. You can learn how to access TPP information on the Internet.
  9. You can find out how the TPP is governed and administered.
  10. You can attend with your spouse and/or colleagues and follow up the seminar session with an outing to a good restaurant.
  11. You can stop procrastinating—learn about your pension and think about your retirement years.

For more information about the TPP, attend a pension seminar this year.

The upcoming seminars are listed in each issue of Teacher or check the BCTF web site at www.bctf.ca/pensions/PenionSeminars.html.

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