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PENCOM Reviews Retirement, Terminal Benefit Regulations

The National Pension Commission (PenCom) has issued a revised Retirement and Terminal Benefits Regulation that will take effect immediately. Since its inception in 2007, this is the first full evaluation of the Regulation.

The regulation outlines how pension contributors and retirees can obtain retirement and terminal benefits under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). PenCom sought advice from key stakeholders as part of its consultative strategy to guarantee more effective retirement benefit administration.

Pension Enhancement, Voluntary Contributions, Temporary Access to RSA due to job loss, Payment under the Micro Pension Plan, and Administrative Sanctions for violations by Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) are among the new elements of the amended Regulation. Furthermore, the Regulation introduces salient amendments to several existing provisions while providing more clarity on others. The key highlights of the Revised Regulation are presented below:

Process of documentation

The Revised Rule has simplified the paperwork process for retirees. The reviewed regulation defined the documents required for retirees to access benefits. It now requires PFAs to make every effort to ensure that all documentation necessary for the holder of a Retirement Savings Account (RSA) is delivered and completed within four months of the date of retirement. PFAs have also been mandated to advise prospective retirees to check their websites and become familiar with the CPS Retirement Pack, which includes features such as Programmed Withdrawal (PW) and Retiree Life Annuity (RLA), at least three months prior to the date of retirement, in order to ensure that they are properly educated on how to access their benefits. The pack also contains other salient issues that would guide the retirees towards a smooth retirement process.

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Non-confirmation of employment status by employers

In addition, the Revised Regulation has simplified the provisions on the notification and documentation required for access to RSA due to temporary loss of job. Temporary loss of job has been defined as a situation “where an employee voluntarily retires, disengages or is disengaged before attaining the age of 50 years and is unable to secure another employment after four months of the disengagement.” The provision addresses situations where employers refuse to confirm the retirement or disengagement of their former employees. Prior to this revision, a letter of acceptance of resignation or disengagement issued by the employer is mandatory for a pension contributor seeking payment of 25 percent for temporary loss of job. However, the Revised Regulation provides that where the employer fails/refuses to accept the resignation letter from the employee, the PFA shall write the employer confirming the employee’s resignation and ensure that an acknowledgement copy is kept as proof of receipt. Where the employer fails to respond to the PFA’s inquiry within 30 days, the employer’s refusal is taken as acceptance of the employee’s resignation for the purpose of benefits payment.

Additional lump sum payment

Significantly, in terms of lump sum payment, the Revised Regulation has clarified that the retirees shall be allowed to access additional lump sum after the payment of initial lump sum provided that there are additional inflows of funds into the RSA from the employers. However, the additional remittances shall first be applied to augment pension up to 50 percent of the retiree’s final salary while the balance may be paid out as lump sum. Where the retiree’s pension is already up to 50 percent of final salary, the retiree may choose to collect the entire additional remittances as lump sum. Where the additional inflow into the RSA of a retiree-on-Retiree Life Annuity (RLA) is not up to $100,000 the amount shall be paid directly into the retiree’s bank account, subject to the Commission’s approval.

RSA consolidation before payment of benefits

The Revised Regulation has also clarified that the RSA must be consolidated before retirement benefits can be accessed. A retiree shall only be entitled to access his or her retirement benefits upon consolidation of his or her RSA. The components of an RSA at retirement shall consist of accrued pension rights or pre-act benefits (if any) for employees that were in employment before the commencement of the CPS, employer/employee pension contributions, returns on investment and fixed portion of voluntary contributions (if any). The new regulation mandates the PFA to take necessary steps to liaise with the employer and other relevant parties, to ensure that all the entitlements of a retiree or deceased person is credited to his/her RSA for the purpose of determining the final RSA balance, before processing of benefits.

Accrued pension benefits for private sector contributors

Furthermore, the Revised Regulation has made provision for the administration of Pre-Act Benefits, which are the accrued pension benefits of contributors mainly in the private sector in line with the employer’s trust deed prior to the commencement of the CPS in June 2004. Any employee who retires and has pre-act contributions shall notify the PFA of his/her intention to withdraw the Pre-Act balance. A PFA shall request the retiree to provide necessary documents and an application to access the Pre-Act part of the RSA balance. Consequently, the Pre-Act balance can be paid to the retiree separately, prior to selecting either Programmed Withdrawal or Annuity modes of accessing retirement benefits.

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