Canada expands early retirement for frontline public safety workers

PSAC celebrates federal pension reform providing equitable retirement benefits for frontline workers

Canada expands early retirement for frontline public safety workers

The federal public service pension plan, established through the Public Service Superannuation Act (PSSA), provides retirement income for employees of the federal public service and more than 60 other participating organizations, including the three territorial governments.  

As of March 31, 2023, the plan included almost 400,000 active members. Benefits depend on an employee’s salary, pensionable service, and age.   

Eligibility for an unreduced pension benefit depends on the date an individual became a member of the pension plan.  

Individuals who joined on or before December 31, 2012, qualify for an unreduced pension if they leave the public service at age 60 or over with at least two years of pensionable service, or at age 55 or over with at least 30 years of pensionable service.  

Those who became members on or after January 1, 2013, qualify if they leave at age 65 or over with at least two years of pensionable service, or at age 60 or over with at least 30 years of pensionable service.   

The pension plan offers a special operational service program, allowing certain eligible members to retire earlier with an immediate unreduced pension after completing 25 years of actual operational service, or at age 50 with at least 10 years of actual and 10 years of “deemed” operational service.  

This benefit is currently available only to employees of Correctional Service Canada working in a federal correctional institution. Similar provisions exist for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.   

On December 21, 2023, the Public Service Pension Advisory Committee (PSPAC) recommended expanding the operational service program to include additional occupational groups who promote and protect the safety and security of Canadians.  

The PSPAC, established pursuant to the PSSA, consults with employee representatives, and advises the President of the Treasury Board on the administration, design, and funding of the pension plan.  

The Committee, which includes representatives of employees, retirees, and the employer, conducted a review of occupations before making its final recommendation.   

On June 13, the Government of Canada announced plans to introduce legislation in the fall, based on the PSPAC’s recommendations, to expand early pension eligibility to frontline employees in several groups:  

  • Federal and territorial government firefighters 

  • Territorial government paramedics and correctional service employees 

  • Federal government border services officers 

  • Parliamentary protection officers 

  • Search and rescue technicians.  

This change acknowledges the demanding nature of their day-to-day duties and their critical role in promoting and protecting the safety and security of Canadians.   

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) applauded the announcement, describing the new pension reform legislation as a significant victory for frontline public safety and law enforcement workers. 

Sharon DeSousa, PSAC National president, stated, “It's National Public Service Week, and I can't think of better news to deliver to the federal workers who keep us safe every single day.”  

DeSousa emphasized that this legislation offers a dignified retirement to thousands of frontline workers who have been advocating for fair pension treatment for more than a decade.   

PSAC members expected to benefit from the legislation include:   

  • Frontline border services staff 

  • Coast Guard search and rescue technicians 

  • Parks Canada wildland firefighters 

  • Department of National Defence firefighters on military bases 

  • Correctional officers, paramedics, and firefighters working for the three territorial governments 

DeSousa noted, “Nearly a decade of hard work and advocacy by our members has finally paid off. Now, these dedicated frontline workers will no longer be forced to work five years longer before they can retire, just like other public safety workers across the country.”   

Most public safety and law enforcement workers in Canada, such as firefighters, air traffic controllers, RCMP constables, and operational employees at Correctional Services Canada, already benefit from early retirement options.  

This equitable pension reform will allow more public safety workers to retire with dignity after 25 years of service without penalties.  

DeSousa concluded, “We’ll be reviewing this legislation carefully and pushing the government to adopt these changes swiftly to provide frontline workers with fair retirement benefits as soon as possible.”