Unlocking of Pensions

Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on engageNL from July 29 to September 30, 2020. Below is a record of this engagement.


The Provincial Government receives correspondence on a regular basis from individuals seeking legislative authority to access locked-in pension funds. They feel government regulation is preventing them from having access to their money, which is usually required for some urgent financial reason.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is considering amendments to the Pension Benefits Act, 1997 to facilitate unlocking pension funds for financial hardship.  Eligibility for financial hardship unlocking is being considered for persons who have transferred funds from a registered pension plan into a locked-in retirement savings arrangement. Persons who are active members in a pension plan would not be eligible. In addition, persons receiving retirement income from a defined benefit pension plan would not be eligible.



Pension legislation requires the benefit be used to provide a retirement income which may begin at age 55 or an earlier retirement age specified in the applicable pension plan. A pension cannot be transferred out while an individual remains a member of a pension plan. However, in certain instances after a pension plan member has ceased employment or if a plan is terminated, it is not required that the benefit remain in the pension plan. In these cases, when a member elects to transfer their entitlement out of a pension plan, the locked-in benefit can be moved to: (1) another pension plan, (2) an insurance company to provide an annuity at retirement, or (3) a prescribed locked-in retirement savings arrangement with a bank or other financial institution. These prescribed arrangements include:

  • Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) - a type of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) that can be used to hold locked-in pension funds. Unlike a regular RRSP, funds cannot be withdrawn from a LIRA, except under certain prescribed conditions noted below, but can be transferred to a LIF or LRIF at retirement age or transferred to (1) or (2), from above; or
  • Life Income Fund (LIF) and Locked-in Retirement Income Fund (LRIF) - types of registered retirement income funds (RRIFs) that can be used to hold locked-in pension funds once an individual is eligible to retire under the terms of the original pension plan. Funds can be withdrawn as retirement income with annual maximum withdrawals imposed by legislation in order that income can be withdrawn gradually in retirement (similar to a pension).

There are currently two exceptions to the pension locked-in requirement. An individual who transfers out of a pension plan can unlock the entire benefit and receive a lump sum if either; (1) a doctor certifies the individual has a considerably shortened life expectancy, or (2) the pension is determined to be a small balance.

As pension legislation is complex and changes to unlocking provisions could have an impact on a wide variety of stakeholders, providing general unlocking access - without sufficient analysis and consultation - could challenge the continued stability of the pension system.


Get Involved

The goal of the consultations regarding the unlocking of pensions is to inform all stakeholders - including pension plan members, retirees, pension plan sponsors and administrators, the general public and those involved in the pension industry - that the Provincial Government is considering amendments to the Pension Benefits Act regarding the unlocking of pension benefits. It provides a mechanism for participants to voice what they consider advantages/disadvantages of unlocking pension benefits. This portal is the official point of entry for anyone interested in providing feedback on the topic.

Some of the key issues that the consultations explore include:

  • Financial hardship criteria and eligibility
  • Dollar amounts that could be accessed
  • Type of locked-in accounts that can be accessed
  • Impact to pension plans and plan administrators
  • Frequency of unlocking
  • Impact to regulations and the provincial pension system

Thank you in advance for your participation.


Online Questionnaire:

This questionnaire will be available until September 30, 2020 and should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.

If you have any questions related to this questionnaire or require an alternate format, please contact the department at [email protected].

Click here to complete the questionnaire


How will your input be used?

The information we receive will be reviewed by Service NL, and all feedback will be considered as the Provincial Government explores potential amendments to the Pension Benefits Act.


Privacy Statement

Please do not include your name or any information that could identify you. The collection of information is done under the authority of section 61(c) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015 for the purpose of collecting public feedback on the potential unlocking of pensions.

If you have any questions about how this information will be collected, used and disclosed, please contact Pam Senior at [email protected].


Contact Us

If you have any questions or additional comments regarding the unlocking of pensions consultations exercise, please contact Thomas Duggan at [email protected].