Periods of Disability and Leaves of Absence
Read more about periods of disability and leaves of absence and how to code that properly.
After August 31, 1992, if a teacher becomes disabled, they may continue to accrue pensionable service in the Teachers’ and Private School Teachers’ Pension plans (the plans) without having to make any contributions if:
- they were a contributing active member, on a leave of absence, or on strike immediately before the disability began, and
- they received or are receiving a long-term or extended disability benefit through their employer during the period of disability. (Note that where an employer does not have a long-term disability income continuance program or a disabled teacher is not in receipt of long-term disability benefits through their employer’s provider, ATRF should be contacted to determine a teacher’s eligibility to continue to accrue pensionable service under the plans’ disability provision.)
As an employer, you are required to report service and salary and remit contributions in a manner that is compliant with the Teachers’ and Private School Teachers’ Pension Plans regulations (the plan rules). This overview will help you understand when and how to report periods of long-term disability, leaves of absence, and periods of short-term disability.
When a teacher is receiving long-term disability benefits through their employer’s insurance provider, this is considered a period of disability service and it is important to code the monthly reporting record as DT in the ATRF-CS program. This will assist ATRF in following up with the teacher and crediting disability service to the teacher’s file. Remember, this service is credited to the teacher at no cost to you or the teacher; the cost is borne by the plans. As such, it is important to only code periods where a teacher is in receipt of long-term disability benefits as DT.
Employer's Role in Reporting Periods of Disability
In ATRF-CS, there are a variety of special codes which will enable you to report when a teacher is not at work. The following is a listing of the codes and their descriptions:
DT Disabled Teacher
LM Maternity Leave
LO Other Leave
LP Parental Leave
LS Sabbatical Leave
LK Lock Out
Periods of short-term disability are reported as periods of current service (i.e. a “regular record”). There is more information on this reporting requirement below.
Leaves of Absence
The plan rule definition of a leave of absence is clear; for a period to be considered a leave of absence and represent a break in the teacher’s service and deemed purchasable, the leave period must be unpaid – no renumeration is paid – and approved by the employer. The only exceptions are where a teacher is on a paid paternity, adoption, or sabbatical leave, or where the teacher is on a paid non-health-related portion of a maternity leave – these are considered leaves of absence even if paid (either fully or partially). As such, a period where a teacher is in receipt of short-term disability benefits is not considered to be a leave of absence.
Where a teacher is on a leave of absence, a leave is to be reported in alignment with the reporting codes noted above. The teacher can later purchase that service when they have returned to work.
The health-related portion of a maternity leave, similar to a short-term disability period, is considered to be a period of current service (a “regular record”), with full service and salary reported and full contributions remitted during that period. This is the case regardless of whether the employer is paying a top-up or partial pay during this period or is paying nothing at all.
A period of short-term disability is a period of paid (either fully or partially) leave that is not a leave of absence as defined in the plan rules. Examples of a period of short-term disability (paid leave) include:
- a waiting period prior to being eligible for long-term disability benefits where the teacher is receiving remuneration (pay) from a third-party provider,
- a temporary period where the teacher is not working but is receiving remuneration from a third-party provider (this includes short-term income continuation plans), and
- a period where the teacher is receiving remuneration that is not a leave of absence (as defined above).
The plan rules are clear that where a teacher is in receipt of short-term disability benefits from their employer or a third-party provider (insurance provider), the teacher does not meet the plan rule definition of a disabled member. Further, the teacher will remain an active member in the plan and the period is not a leave of absence. When a teacher is in receipt of short-term disability benefits, that teacher should be credited with service and salary as though they were continuing to work. This is because the period is not a leave of absence and it is not a period of disability as defined in the plan rules.
A teacher who was employed on a full-time basis prior to the period of short-term disability will continue to accrue full service and salary during that period, and full contributions from both the teacher and the employer will be required, regardless of the portion of compensation the teacher is actually receiving during the period of short-term disability. A part-time teacher’s service, salary and contributions will continue in the same amount as they were prior to the period of short-term disability starting.
In the situation where a teacher has a waiting period prior to being eligible for long-term disability benefits, once the extended long-term disability benefits are approved, upon confirmation of the teacher’s receipt of these benefits, ATRF will credit disability service to the teacher’s file from the date the long-term disability benefits began.
Supporting Documents Required by ATRF (Disability Service Crediting)
ATRF will require a letter of confirmation from the insurance provider that pays the long-term disability benefits confirming the start and end dates of the approved disability period. ATRF has a good working relationship with the Alberta School Employee Benefits Plan (ASEBP) and they will supply letters to ATRF confirming periods of disability regularly. For non-ASEBP insurance providers, the plan member or the employer will be required to contact the insurance provider for a letter confirming the start and end dates of the approved disability period.
Where an employer does not have a long-term disability income continuance program or a disabled teacher is not in receipt of long-term disability benefits through their employer’s provider, ATRF should be contacted to determine a teacher’s eligibility to continue to accrue pensionable service under the plans’ disability provision.
Processing Extended Disability Benefits
What does ATRF do when we receive notification that a teacher is receiving extended disability benefits?
- Once ATRF receives the required information, pensionable service is credited to the teacher, based on the full-time equivalent (FTE) status at the time the teacher became disabled.
- Example: The teacher was working 1.0 FTE prior to becoming disabled. ATRF would credit disability service at a rate of 1.0 FTE.
- Example: The teacher was working 0.8 FTE prior to becoming disabled. ATRF would credit disability service at a rate of 0.8 FTE.
- ATRF will ensure that the salary used to credit pensionable service will be the salary paid to the teacher at the time the teacher became disabled. This will include annual increases in pay (every September 1) based on the average salary increases applicable for the same period for the following four school boards: Edmonton Public, Edmonton Separate, Calgary Public, and Calgary Separate. No employer or employee contributions are required.
- ATRF will report the Pension Adjustment (PA) on a T4A to the plan member for the pensionable service
we credited during a disability period.