Frequently asked questions for PERS members
If you are a PERS member who is facing a loss of work because of COVID-19, you may wonder how it could affect your future PERS retirement.
Read on for answers about how a layoff, furlough, leave without pay, your employer’s participation in the Oregon Employment Department’s Work Share program, or other break in PERS-qualifying employment may impact you.
Please note that this FAQ is not meant to be comprehensive, and information included is subject to change. PERS will add or update information when we have more to share. All employment decisions are between you and your employer.
Are you a PERS-participating employer looking for answers about paid leave and PERS reporting? View an employer FAQ.
General information about PERS benefits and key terms to understand
Accruing Creditable Service/Retirement Credit
Oregon law does not allow members to accrue service or retirement credit if they are not actively working in a PERS-qualifying position. Actively working generally means both having hours of employment and earning wages for those hours.
You accrue creditable service/retirement credit when you:
- Are working in a qualifying position, meaning you work at least 600 hours for a PERS-participating employer in a calendar year, and
- Work at least 50 hours in a calendar month.
Remember that PERS administers your retirement plan on your employer's behalf. Your employer is responsible for accurately submitting information about your employment status to PERS.
Salary is defined in statute and is, generally, payment in return for services.
Because your contributions into PERS are based on a percentage of your salary, contributions into PERS
are reduced when your salary is reduced.
Your retirement benefits could be affected because your salary is also used in formula retirement benefit calculations. These calculations use a member’s final average salary (the last 36 months or highest three years in career). A reduction in your salary potentially can reduce your final average salary and therefore your retirement benefit later on.
Breaks in employment, depending on their length, may affect your membership and vesting status.
- If you are a new employee: you establish membership in PERS by completing six months of service with the same employer. You cannot have a break in employment of more than 30 days. As such, if you were still in your first six months when you were laid off and your layoff lasts longer than 30 days, you may lose any
time you accrued toward establishing membership. The clock on establishing membership will restart when you are rehired.
- If you were not yet vested in your pension when you were laid off, you must be rehired by a PERS-participating employer within five years or you will lose your PERS pension membership and forfeit time accrued toward vesting. Loss of membership also means you forfeit your rights to receive a pension benefit in
Does PERS have provisions for losses of work stemming from COVID-19?
No, PERS does not have special provisions for loss of work stemming from COVID-19.
How could a layoff affect me?
When an employer lays you off, even if it is temporary, they should report your separation from work to PERS. This means that, while you are laid off and not working for any PERS-participating employer, you will be an “inactive member” and will not accrue any PERS benefits. The time you spend laid off (i.e., not employed with a PERS-participating employer) will not be counted toward your service/retirement credit and contributions will not be made to your Individual Account Program (IAP) account. If you are a school employee, your summer-months credit also could be impacted.
If you are rehired later, your employer will report your rehire date to PERS and you will become an “active member” again.
How could a furlough impact me?
When you are furloughed, you retain your employee status. However, whether you receive creditable service or wages for PERS purposes during the period of furlough depends on whether you are on paid or unpaid leave during your furlough. Unpaid leave is commonly referred to as leave without pay (LWOP).
If you are on paid leave during the furlough, your creditable service/retirement credit or wages for PERS purposes should not
be affected, similar to when you are on other types of paid leave, such as sick leave or vacation. If you are on LWOP during the furlough, the furlough time will not be considered for creditable service/retirement credit. During the period of LWOP,
you will not have any salary reported, and contributions will not be made to your IAP (whether paid by you or your employer).
What if I remain an employee but my hours are cut when work is not available?
All terms of employment are between you and your employer. So long as you are employed, your employer will continue to report the hours you work and the wages you are paid.
Generally, variations in the number of hours you work throughout a calendar year will not impact your PERS membership eligibility as long as you work at least 600 hours in a full calendar year for one or more participating PERS employers to maintain your “active member” status.
As an active member, you will receive creditable service for each month that you work the major fraction of the month, or a minimum of 50 hours each month. (Special rules apply to school employees who may be eligible for educational service credit during summer months).
Contributions to your IAP are made based upon your subject salary. If you work fewer hours, and receive less in wages, then the amount of contributions made by you or your employer will be less as well.
How am I affected if my employer participates in the Oregon Employment Department’s Work Share program?
Work Share provides an alternative for employers and workers who may be facing the prospect of a layoff situation. With Work Share, instead of reducing staff, an employer reduces the hours of work by 20% to 40% per week. Partial Unemployment Insurance benefits are then paid to supplement workers’ reduced wages. The reduced or furlough hours are then treated as “leave without pay” (no salary or hours), because the Work Share program benefits are not considered salary for PERS purposes.
If you are a full-time employee, note that a 20% to 40% reduction in your weekly hours under the Work Share program still allows you to work the major fraction of the month. As long as you work and are paid for at least 50 hours each month, the reduction in work hours due to Work Share program furlough should not reduce your creditable service. However, your salary would be reduced for those months with Work Share program furlough, impacting your IAP contributions, and possibly your final average salary.
What if I permanently stop working for all PERS-participating employers?
If you permanently lose or quit all PERS-qualifying jobs, you become an “inactive member.”
Whenever you leave a PERS-qualifying position and your employer reports this as a separation to PERS, you no longer accrue service/retirement credit toward your pension, and contributions are no longer made to your IAP.
If you are vested in your pension before separation happens, you will retain your rights to a pension benefit at retirement as long as you do not withdraw. If you were not vested at separation and do not return to another PERS-qualifying position within five years, you will lose
your PERS membership and forfeit your pension.
See our If You Change, Lose, or Quit Your Job and Withdrawal/Inactive Member Information webpages for more information. Additionally, our Member Annual Statement FAQs for Tier One/Tier Two and Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP) members discuss how vesting works as well as withdrawal options and rules if you are no longer working for a PERS-participating employer. Withdrawal can lead to loss of membership and pension forfeiture.
Where can I get more information?
Talk to PERS
Member Services can answer your questions about PERS retirement benefits from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 888-320-7377 or email PERS.Member.Services@state.or.us. You also can use PERS’ Submit a Question form online.
Note that call wait times may be longer than normal because of temporary changes PERS has made in response to COVID-19. The PERS website also may periodically experience increases in web traffic, which can render it temporarily inaccessible for short periods.
On the web
Return to our PERS Updates on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.
Read Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read’s message about COVID-19 and your PERS investments.
News and announcements
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