Workplace pensions aid in recruitment and retention

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At a time when most experts are concerned that there will be a future retirement income crisis – given the fact that two thirds of Canadians lack any kind of pension coverage at work – jobs with pensions are highly valued by workers young and old.

Research by the Gandalf Group recently found that 79 per cent of Canadians want pension plans at work that have guarantees around future income, and 65 per cent feel the economy will suffer if there continues to be a trend towards retirement income inadequacy.

So having a pension benefit at work may be more important than ever before, two Ontario health care workers say.

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Mimi Hoang, a Health Information Management Practitioner with The Ottawa Hospital, is a member of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP). She says that when she graduated, finding out she was able to contribute to a pension “was a bonus,” and that now, in her thirties, she feels “having a pension included in the work I do is important… it is a great way to invest in your future retirement.”

The pension, she adds, is such an important workplace benefit that “I would not consider another job where there was no pension, even if it offered an equal or higher salary.” She says having a workplace pension makes her feel secure. “I am working towards a relaxing retirement while I am working – that turns my worries about my future retirement into daydreams.”

She says that younger people often overlook the importance of a workplace pension. “They prioritize on finding a career, so worries about pensions are maybe secondary,” she says, adding that there needs to be better education for new graduates about how important a workplace pension is.

Lisa Gardner, Palliative Care Network Lead for the Southwest Local Health Integration Network, agrees that pensions are an extremely valuable benefit. “For sure it’s a good thing,” she says. “When you’re looking at the future, you want to align yourself to a pension.”

Now a more senior employee, continuing to belong to HOOPP was a factor for Gardner when changing jobs throughout her career. “That was one of the pieces – did they offer HOOPP,” she recalls. “I had to make sure HOOPP was offered, because I want to be able to retire comfortably.”

Gardner has been a recruiter of health care workers, and notes that recruitment is an important factor.  “Having a pension is especially important to the 30-40 age group – nurses, physicians, everyone in the health care system.”

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She agrees with Hoang that young graduates “probably aren’t as concerned with it… but after about five years, once they get married and start raising kids, they start to get the importance of it.”

Workers with good pensions also benefit the economy. According to research carried out by the Boston Consulting Group and referenced in a 2014 HOOPP White Paper, those with defined benefit pensions (the type that HOOPP offers) are “far less reliant on the taxpayer-funded Guaranteed Income Supplement Program” than those with other retirement savings arrangements, or no arrangement.

Defined benefit retirees in Ontario, the research found, spend about $27 billion a year on goods and services, “creating employment and boosting the economy.” They pay $3 billion a year in income tax plus a further $3 billion in sales and property taxes, the research noted.

Earlier this month, HOOPP announced returns of 17.7 per cent in 2014, boosting net assets to a record $60.8 billion. The defined benefit plan is fully funded, meaning that it has more than enough assets to cover the benefits built by each and every plan member.