Questions and answers on severance
The new provisions of the tentative agreements related to severance for retirement or resignation will require all PA, SV and EB members to make an important decision in the coming year. Cashing out your severance pay now or later will have important saving and tax implications. The following questions and answers will help you understand this change and guide you in making the right decision on cashing out your severance.
Key points on severance:
If the tentative agreements for the PA, SV and EB groups are ratified, severance pay for retirement or resignation will cease to accumulate for employees in these groups as of the second day of the contract.
Everyone, including term workers, with at least one year of continuous employment will be entitled to one week''s pay for each completed year of employment. Indeterminate employees will also be entitled to a pro-rated week for a partial year of employment.
Everyone, including term workers, with at least one year of continuous employment will be able to choose what to do with their accumulated severance:
immediately cash out the severance they have accumulated, or
keep their accumulated severance and have it paid out when they actually resign or retire, or
immediately cash out part of the accumulated severance and keep the rest of it to be paid when they resign or retire.
No one has to resign or retire to receive the cash out right away.
Everyone has time to decide. Once the collective agreement is signed employees will have six months to decide which of the options they will choose – cash it all out, bank it until they resign or retire, or cash out some now and bank the rest to cash out when they resign or retire.
The expected dates of signature of the agreements are February 22, 2011 in the case of the PA agreement, March 2, 2011 in the case of the EB agreement, and April 6, 2011 in the case of the SV agreement.
No one will be forced to take the cash out immediately. But if you decide to cash out all of your severance right away, you will not receive a payment when you resign or retire later.
Accumulated severance that is banked and not cashed out immediately will be paid at the salary rate that applies when you actually resign or retire.
Under the new agreements severance pay will no longer accumulate in the case of resignation or retirement.
Severance pay will continue to accumulate for employees who are forced to leave the public service due to layoff, death, termination on probation or because of incapacity or incompetence.
Q. What did we get in exchange for severance?
A. The bargaining teams fought hard to ensure that the trade-off for severance was fair. The increased wages will accumulate as pensionable earnings and employees will enjoy the benefits of that when they retire.
These wage increases benefit everyone equally and because salaries are compounded over time, the increase in wages will have an upward effect on pensions and overtime. The union also achieved some concrete victories on longstanding demands including better protections for term employees and seniority priority for vacation.
Q. Who brought the issue of severance pay to the bargaining table?
A. Treasury Board.
Q. I am currently making $52,000 a year and plan on staying in the federal public service for another 20 years. People are telling me that I will lose $20,000 in severance pay if this agreement is accepted. Is that true?
A. If this agreement is accepted, the accumulation of future severance for resignation or retirement will end as of the second day of the new contracts. Under the current contract, if you were to stay until you retire, you would earn one week of pay for each year of service (up to a maximum of 30 weeks). That would be about $1,000 per year based on your current salary. But if you resigned under the current agreement you would have been entitled to one-half week's pay per year - or $500 per year - provided you have at least 10 years of service.
In considering the overall value of the contract, however, you need to consider that the wage increases compound to 5.3% of salary. If you are currently making $52,000 a year, then by the third year of the contract you'll be making $54,778 - an increase of $2,778. That's a lot more than the $500-$1000 per year of service than the severance is worth. Before even considering future increases, that multiplies out to more than $52,000 over 20 years - far more than the value of what your severance would have been. Furthermore, the wage increase turns into increased overtime rates and higher pensionable earnings.
Q. I've been told that severance pay is worth 2% of my salary. Is that true?
A. No. For employees who know they will stay until they retire, current severance pay is worth 1 week per year of service (up to a maximum of 30 weeks). That calculates to be 1.9% of pay (1 week divided by 52.176 weeks per year) - provided you retire before reaching the 30 year maximum.
Employees who resign after more than 10 years of service receive one-half week's pay for each year of service, or 0.95% of pay, under the current agreement. Employees who resign prior to 10 years of service receive no severance pay. Current statistics show that one federal employee resigns for every two or three who retire.
The overall cost of severance as a percentage of pay across the bargaining unit is estimated to be 1.3%.
Q. I have been working half time for 10 years but worked full-time for 16 years before that. Will my severance be calculated as half-time employment or will my past full-time years be taken into account?
A. For part-time employees, the years of continuous employment are calculated in such a way that they total full time equivalent. This is covered by the Part-Time articles of the collective agreement (e.g. Article 62.14 in the PA collective agreement).
In this case, with 16 years of full-time employment and 10 years of half-time employment, you would have your continuous employment calculated at 16 years + 5 years (1/2 x 10 years) = 21 years.
If this was your status on June 22, 2011, you would be entitled to a severance benefit of 21 weeks to be paid at the rate of your substantive classification at the rate effective June 22, 2011 if you cash it out immediately or at the rate when you retire if you choose to bank your accumulated severance. The weeks would be multiplied by the full-time salary to determine the benefit.
Q. Why did the PSAC agree to give up severance for retirement and resignation?
A. It was clear to bargaining teams that the employer wanted to save money by ending the accumulation of severance for retirement or resignation. In this context, we worked hard to ensure that the employer agreed to some of our longstanding demands and to fair wage increases for employees.
Q. What does this mean for employees who were thinking of resigning?
A. Under the current contract, employees who resign before reaching 10 years of employment are not entitled to a severance payout. Those with between 10 and 26 years of employment are entitled to only a ½ week of pay for each year of employment. We negotiated that all employees with at least one year of employment would receive a cash out of one week of pay for each year of employment. For employees with 10 years or more who would have resigned before retirement, this represents a doubling of their accumulated entitlement.
Q. Does the timing of my retirement or resignation make a difference?
A. If the tentative agreements are ratified, the accumulation of severance for resignation or retirement ends effective the second day of the contract. Until that time, the current contract provisions remain in place.
There is no reason to delay retirement until the new provisions are in place because severance pay for retirement is paid on the basis of one week for each year of employment.
However, an employee who is considering resignation will benefit from waiting until after the second day of the contract. Currently, the severance pay for resignation provides for no severance if you resign before 10 years, and one-half week pay for each year of employment if you have between 10 and 26 years of employment. Therefore, waiting to resign until after the second day of the new contract increases your severance pay to one week per year of employment.
Q. I plan on retiring in 2013. Can I defer the cash out until I retire so that I get the benefit of all the salary increases that will apply before I retire?
A. Yes, you can defer the cash out until you retire. It will be based on your salary at the time of retirement which will include any salary increases that have taken effect up to your retirement date.
Q. I will be retiring in February, 2011 with 37 years of service. How would the new agreement affect me?
A. You will not be affected by the new agreement. You will be entitled to receive your severance pay at the time of your retirement based on the current collective agreement which provides for one week for each year of service to a maximum of 30 weeks' pay.
Q. Is early retirement considered as a resignation or as retirement under the new severance provisions?
A. There is no difference if you resign or retire. Under the new agreements, as long as you have at least one year of continuous service, you are entitled to one week's pay for each year of service for all years up to the second day of your new collective agreement. For example, if you are in the PA group, up to June 22, 2011. The one week's pay per year of service applies to both resignation and retirement.
Q. What are my options for the severance cash out?
A. Every employee with at least one year of continuous employment will have three options for the cash out of accumulated voluntary severance calculated at the rate of one week of pay for each year of employment:
- Immediately cash out their severance at their current rate of pay.
- Retain the accumulated weeks of severance with a payout on termination or retirement at their exit rate of pay.
- Cash out some of their severance (a “round” number of weeks) at their current rate of pay, with the remainder to be paid upon termination or retirement at their exit rate of pay.
Q. What is the value of the cash out for me?
A. The monetary value of the severance cash out varies considerably from person to person, depending on their years of employment, their career plan, and the option they choose for their cash out. Under what PSAC has negotiated, all employees (including term employees with at least one year of continuous employment) will have a calculation made of total years of continuous employment as of the second day of each new contract. The following chart shows the before tax value of the cash out by years of continuous employment and annual salary.
|Years of continuous employment||Annual salary|
Here are some examples:
A term employee who has built up 4 years of continuous employment who is currently making $45,000 per year would be entitled to receive a cash payout of $3,450 before tax.
An employee that would have resigned after 9 years would have received zero severance pay. Under these payout provisions, if that employee is making $50,000 per year, he or she would be entitled to an immediate cash pay out of $8,625 before tax.
An employee with 20 years of employment making $55,000 per year who resigns would have previously been entitled to 10 weeks severance ($10,540). Thanks to our negotiating teams, this employee now is entitled to double the payout to a full 20 weeks, or $21,080 before tax.
Note that the payouts will actually be calculated at the rate of pay in effect on the SECOND day of each contract, after the 2011 increase of 1.75% takes effect.
Q. If I take the cash out now, will I still be entitled to severance pay if I were to be laid-off sometime in the future?
A. Yes. But any weeks of severance you have taken under the cash out will be subtracted from the number of weeks of severance you are entitled to under the lay-off provisions of the severance article.
Q. If I take a full or partial payout of my severance will the number of years of severance I cash out reduce my vacation leave employment?
A. No. The tentative agreement contains language to clarify that the cash out does not reduce the amount of vacation leave that you earn.
Q. If the tentative agreements are ratified, how soon can I expect to get the cash out of my accumulated severance if I choose to take some or all of it right away?
A. The employer has three months following the date of signing of the collective agreement to notify employees as to how much severance pay they have accumulated. As an employee, you will have six months from the date of signing of the collective agreement in order to make a decision. Depending on the number of employees who choose to cash out some or all of their accumulated severance, it could be some months before cheques are actually issued.
Q. What are the advantages of waiting to cash out until I resign or retire?
A. If you take the voluntary severance cash out in 2011, each week of severance pay will be calculated on the rate of pay in effect on the second day of the contract, after the new wage increase takes place. If you cash it out when you resign or retire, it will be paid at your exit rate of pay. For employees who expect to be promoted throughout their career, their exit rate of pay could be considerably higher than their current rate of pay.
Q. Are there any restrictions on a partial cash out of severance?
A. You must take a round number of weeks, e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 etc; no fractions of a week.
Q. If choose not to cash out my severance in 2011, will it continue to accumulate until I retire?
A. On retirement, you will be entitled to receive whatever weeks you had accumulated up to the second day of the contract in 2011, multiplied by your rate of pay at the time of retirement. There is no further accumulation of severance entitlement after 2011 for cases of resignation or retirement.
Q.: Is the severance cash out considered as pensionable earnings?
A. No. Severance pay has never been considered as pensionable earnings and this hasn't changed.
Q. If I take the cash out and then stay with the government until retirement, does it mean the severance pay will be calculated based on the number of years I have made following the cash out?
A. The severance pay will be based on your service up to the second day of the new collective agreement. In the case of the PA group your severance will be based on your service up to June 22, 2011.
Q. Can I roll my cashed-out severance into an RESP as opposed to an RRSP?
A. You may do whatever you wish with your cashed-out severance. Any choice of investments is up to you.
Q. What happens if I do not take the cash–out, but then later resign before I could retire? Does it mean I won't get any severance pay?
A. You will receive your accumulated severance pay. You have the option of banking your accumulated severance and it is payable either when you retire or when you resign.
Q. What will be the rate of pay for an employee on income averaging who chooses to cash out their severance?
A. The severance calculation will be based on the employee's substantive position rate of pay. If the period of leave with income averaging is more than 3 months, it will be deducted from their years of continuous employment.
Q. What is the time line for the government to pay out severance once the member decides the cash out options?
A. The government has not put a deadline for paying the cash out, but we expect they will be made during 2011.
Q. Will the six-month waiting period take effect from the signing of the new agreement?
A. Yes, if we sign the collective agreements on the date we expect, the six months will follow that.
Q. Why does the severance pay-out take effect the second day of the contract?
A. By taking place on the second day of the contract, it means that the severance payouts will be based on the rates of pay in effect after the 2011 increase of 1.75%.
Q. When do you have to be on strength to qualify to receive the severance termination benefit?
A. You must be on strength on the second day of the new agreements, the day the new severance provisions come into effect:
PA – June 22, 2011
EB – July 2, 2011
SV – August 6, 2011.
Q. How long do I have to make my choice?
A. Employees will have 6 months from the date of signing of the collective agreement to make their choice for the cash out.
Q. Do I still get severance if I am laid off?
A. Yes. Severance for involuntary departure, including lay-off, continues to accumulate under the new agreements. In addition, members with over 10 years of employment will get an additional week's pay of severance in the event of lay-off, and members with over 20 years of employment will get two additional week's pay of severance on lay-off.
Q. I am a term employee. Do I benefit from the cash out?
A. Yes. Under the current collective agreements, most term employees would not have been eligible to receive severance pay when their terms came to an end. Given that many term employees do eventually move onto indeterminate status, the PSAC was able to negotiate that term employees also get the cash out. However, the cash out will only apply to those employees who have completed one full year of employment as of the second day of each contract.
Q. Do the changes negotiated affect my total period of continuous employment?
A. No. We have not negotiated changes to the definition of continuous employment. The employer will notify each employee of their total period of continuous employment within three months of the signing of the collective agreement.
Q. What is the definition of continuous employment?
A. In our collective agreements, continuous employment is defined by reference to the Public Service Terms and Conditions of Employment Policy.
For most employees, the most relevant part of the definition is:
20.1 For the purpose of this Appendix, the following periods count as continuous employment:
a) in respect of a person appointed to the core public administration on an indeterminate basis or on a term basis for three months or more:
immediately prior service in the core public administration or the public service on an indeterminate basis or on a term basis for three months or more;
a combination of prior service in the core public administration and the public service on an indeterminate basis or on a term basis for three months or more;
immediately prior service in the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided that the person was honourably released and has made or makes a valid election to contribute for that service under the Public Service Superannuation Act (the effective date will be the date the election is completed)
provided that these periods of service are not separated by more than three months;
Q. What is included in continuous employment?
A. As outlined in the definition, continuous employment includes your current period of employment as well as several forms of previous employment, provided that these are not separated by more than three months.
Q. Which leaves without pay are deducted from continuous employment?
A. Our collective agreements state that leaves without pay of greater than three months for reasons other than illness are to be deducted from continuous employment. This is found in the “Leave General” article of the collective agreement.
For example, in the PA collective agreement, the wording is at Article 33.02:
33.02 Except as otherwise specified in this Agreement:
(a) where leave without pay for a period in excess of three (3) months is granted to an employee for reasons other than illness, the total period of leave granted shall be deducted from "continuous employment" for the purpose of calculating severance pay and from "service" for the purpose of calculating vacation leave;
(b) time spent on such leave which is for a period of more than three (3) months shall not be counted for pay increment purposes.
Q. I have worked for the federal government for 10 years. Halfway through, I took a one-year leave without pay for spousal relocation. How many years of severance would I get?
A. Continuous employment is based on your start date and the current date-in your case, that is 10 years. The period of leave without pay is deducted from this. Your total period of continuous employment for the purposes of severance is 9 years.
Q. I was off on extended sick leave without pay for a year. Will severance be subtracted from this?
A. No. As per the definition, only leave without pay of over three months “for reasons other than illness” is deducted.
Q. I took a year of maternity and parental leave. Does that reduce my period of continuous employment?
A. No. Under the maternity and parental leave language negotiated in our collective agreements by the PSAC, periods of maternity and parental leave are not deducted from the period of continuous employment.
See for example the wording in clause 38.01 (g) of the PA collective agreement
(g) Leave granted under this clause shall be counted for the calculation of "continuous employment" for the purpose of calculating severance pay and "service" for the purpose of calculating vacation leave. Time spent on such leave shall be counted for pay increment purposes.
Q. I took a year of leave without pay for the care of immediate family. Is the entire year subtracted from my period of continuous employment?
A. Yes, the entire year will be deducted from your period of continuous employment, as per the wording of the Leave General article shown above.
Q. Does an indeterminate employee with less than one full year of employment receive severance at a pro-rated amount?
Q. Would a member acting in a position outside the PA, SV or EB bargaining units be entitled to cash out their severance?
A. A member acting in a position in another bargaining unit would fall under that contract and will not be entitled to cash out severance unless the “acting” bargaining unit has signed similar language. When the acting period ends and the member returns to their own bargaining unit, the provisions of the new contract will apply. The member returning to the PA, SV or EB bargaining would have access to the same three options and would have three months to choose.
Q. I changed departments without a break in service. Does all my service, regardless of department count for severance?
Q. How will the new severance provisions affect an employee's service date for leave, seniority and pension entitlements?
A. The new severance provision does not affect an employee's service date or seniority.
Q. An employee with less than 10 years of continuous employment is leaving the Public Service. Will they be entitled to severance pay?
A. An employee who resigns with less than 10 years of continuous employment anytime before June 22, 2011 (PA group), July 2, 2011 (EB group) or August 6 (SV group) would not be entitled to severance pay. If the employee leaves after that date, she/he will be entitled to the severance termination benefit of one week's pay for each year of continuous employment.
Q. An employee with over 10 years of continuous employment resigns before June 22 (PA Group), July 2 (EB group) and August 6 (SV group). Will they be entitled to severance pay?
A. Any employee who resigns with over 10 years of service would receive half a week of severance pay per year of continuous employment. If the employee leaves after that date, she/he will be entitled to the severance termination benefit of one week's pay for each year of continuous employment.
Q. Can I use my severance payout to buy-back service for my pension? Will taxes be deducted?
A. The Employer has confirmed that employees who are eligible to buy-back pensionable periods will be able to use their severance payout for this purpose. To avoid or reduce tax deduction at source, an employee who wants to use this option will need to complete and submit to CRA a tax waiver form (Form T1213).
Q. I am currently buying-back some pensionable service. Will this count towards the calculation of my severance pay?
A. Severance pay is based on your total period of continuous employment, not pensionable service. Although the two concepts OFTEN add up to the same amount of time, they are separately defined and calculated. Generally speaking, buying-back pensionable service does not increase the calculation of continuous employment.
Q. Is income tax the only deduction from the severance cash out payment?
A. The severance cash out payment is not subject to PSSA pension contributions. EI and CP/QPP may be deducted from the severance payment, if the employee has not yet reached their maximum annual contribution limit at the time the payment is made.
Q. What are the tax implications of the cash out?
A. There are three ways of reducing tax deductions on the payments. For the immediate cash pay-out, the only option for reducing tax at source is for individual employees to use personal unused RRSP room. For example, if an individual has $20,000 of unused RRSP room, and they receive a cash payment of $20,000, then the employer will not withhold income tax on the $20,000.
For the deferred pay-out at retirement members can benefit from a special RRSP contribution on retirement allowances of $2000 for each year of employment up to and including the year 1995. Note that there is an additional retiring allowance for each year of employment up to 1989 but this may be offset by your participation in the Public Service Superannuation Plan during this period. Both of these special provision can only be used upon termination and cannot be used for the immediate cash pay-out. Members should consult the latest Canada Revenue Agency Income Tax Interpretation Bulletin on severance pay (Retiring Allowances) for complete details.
The third way of reducing the tax payable on the deferred option is to retire/resign early in a taxation year when you expect the rest of your income to go down.
Q. If a member takes the full cash out, will this impact the 2011 tax year?
A. Yes, the cash out will affect the 2011 income tax year.
Q. I thought we already had one week's pay for each year of service?
A. Currently, employees who resign with less than 10 years of service receive no severance at all. If they resign with 10 years or more, they receive ½ week's pay for each year of service to a maximum of 13 weeks' pay. If the new agreements are ratified, employees with at least one continuous year of service who resign will receive one week's pay for every year of service accumulated to the second day of the new agreements.
Currently, employees who retire, are entitled to one week's pay per year of service to a maximum of 30 weeks' pay. Under the new agreements, they will receive one week's pay for every year of service accumulated to the second day of the new agreements.
Q: How did severance actually come about?
A: You may have heard the suggestion that at one point severance pay was negotiated in return for giving up the payout of unused sick leave.
This information debunks the myth that some other major provision was given up to “get” severance pay. Universal “severance pay” predates collective bargaining.
Particular evidence can be found in a version of the Public Service Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations passed September 13, 1967, which contains a provision for a "retiring leave" that was very similar to severance pay on resignation.
While the 1967 provision provided a “leave of absence” instead of a payment, the period of leave was calculated as one week of leave for each year of employment.
The 1967 provision also provided a “gratuity” of half-a-week pay for each year of employment for other forms of termination - including “abandonment” of position.
The first collective agreements negotiated under the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA) converted the “retiring leave”, one week severance pay per year of employment on retirement, and converted the half-week per year of employment “gratuity” to severance pay on resignation.
(1) Leave of absence with pay (hereinafter called "retiring leave") for a period not in excess of twenty-six weeks calculated at the rate of one week for each complete year of continuous employment minus any retiring leave or any period in respect of which a gratuity was previously granted to that employee in respect of that employment;
(2) Where an employee, other than an employee described in subsection (1) or an employee who is dismissed, released, discharged or abandons his position, ceases to be employed in a position to which this section applies, the deputy head may grant that employee a gratuity equal to the amount of that obtained by multiplying:
(a) the number of weeks not in excess of thirteen calculated at the rate of one-half week for each complete year of continuous employment minus any retiring leave or any period in respect of which a gratuity was previously granted to that employee in respect of that employment;
(b) the weekly rate of pay for the position held by that employee on the day on which he ceases to be an employee.
Date Modified : 2011/10/11