The funding rules for Specified Ontario Multi-Employer Pension Plans (SOMEPPs) have been extended to whichever is earlier:
- January 1, 2025
- The date the new target benefit pension plan framework under the Pension Benefits Act (PBA) comes into force
Multi-employer pension plans that meet the SOMEPP eligibility criteria may continue to be funded on a going-concern basis rather than on a solvency basis.
Background on SOMEPP funding rules
Temporary funding rules were first enacted in 2007 to provide relief to SOMEPPs, which may have had to reduce benefits under solvency funding rules. The SOMEPP regulation has since been extended four times in 2009, 2012, 2018 and most recently in 2023.
The most recent extension came into force on January 1, 2024 and will continue until whichever is earlier:
- January 1, 2025
- The date the new target benefit pension plan framework under the PBA comes into effect.
See the PBA, Ontario Regulation (O. Reg.) 192/18 for details.
How does a pension plan qualify as a SOMEPP?
A SOMEPP is a multi-employer pension plan that meets the eligibility criteria set out in the regulation. Also, they must request in writing to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) to be designated as a SOMEPP.
To qualify as a SOMEPP, the multi-employer pension plan must meet the following criteria:
- No more than 95% are employed by one employer at the end of the previous year.
- At least 10% were employed by two or more employers during the previous year.
- At least 15 employers were making contributions to the plan during the previous year.
- Contributions are limited to a fixed amount set out in the documents that create and support the plan; or:
- All or substantially all employers are required to comply with Part 1 of the Income Tax Act.
- All employers make contributions to the plan based on one or more collective agreements.
- Contributions are limited to a fixed amount set out in one or more collective agreements.
- The plan administrator is authorized to determine the benefits that are to be provided under the plan.
- The plan administrator can reduce benefit amounts or the commuted value of the benefits, including pensions, deferred pensions or ancillary benefits, as outlined in the PBA, subsection 14(2).
What are the SOMEPP funding rules?
SOMEPPs are not required to meet solvency funding rules and instead are funded on a going-concern basis.
If a SOMEPP files an actuarial valuation report before January 1, 2025, it can be exempt from making special payments for unfunded solvency liabilities for a period of time. The SOMEPP must continue to:
- Make special payments for any going-concern unfunded liabilities.
- Fund any going concern shortfalls over a period of 12 years instead of the usual 15 years.
- Fund any benefit improvements on an accelerated basis if the plan's funded level falls below a certain limit.
The actuarial valuation report must demonstrate that the required contributions are more than the sum of the following:
- Normal cost of the plan
- Special payments for any going-concern unfunded liabilities determined in the current report.
- Any remaining special payments for going-concern unfunded liabilities determined in a previous report.
Notifying members is required
A SOMEPP is required to notify all members, including former members, within 60 days of filing a valuation report that uses the SOMEPP funding rules.
The notice must include:
- The plan's name and provincial registration number
- The name and contact information of the plan administrator
- The plan's transfer ratio (solvency assets divided by solvency liabilities)
- The transfer ratio before and after any amendment to increase pension benefits or ancillary benefits (if applicable)
- An explanation of how the security of the pension benefits and ancillary benefits might be affected by becoming a SOMEPP
A copy of the notice must also be provided to:
- Every employer who makes contributions to the plan
- Every bargaining agent who represents members of the plan
- Every member who becomes eligible to join or is required to become a member of the plan while the SOMEPP designation is in place
Solvency funding deficiency reporting still required
SOMEPPs are still required to report the amount of unfunded liabilities on a solvency basis in their actuarial valuation reports. However, they are exempt from making special payments for the unfunded solvency liabilities.
Benefit improvement limitations
If a SOMEPP makes an amendment to improve pension benefits that leads to:
- A transfer ratio that is less than 0.8; or
- A ratio of the market value of the plan assets to the going-concern liabilities that is less than 0.9;
The SOMEPP will be required to make special payments to settle the going-concern unfunded liabilities over eight years.