Nfld. & Labrador

Retired teachers in N.L. can now work 90 days a year without affecting pensions

Retired teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador can now work up to 90 days a year without seeing their pensions clawed back, a change made to the province's Teachers' Pension Plan to combat a shortage of substitute teachers.

Changes made due to ongoing substitute teacher shortage

Kim Christianson, the Newfoundland and Labrador francophone school board's director of education, says the new rules were a necessary change amid a substitute teacher shortage. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Retired teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador can now work up to 90 days a year without seeing their pensions clawed back, a change made to the provincial Teachers' Pension Plan to combat a shortage of substitute teachers.

The change, which affects both of the province's school districts, came into effect Nov. 17 and means retirees can work 25 days more per school year without affecting their pension revenue.

The Conseil scolaire francophone provincial, the province's francophone school board, says the new rule is necessary for schools such as École Sainte-Anne, on the Port au Port peninsula, where 60 students have been without a full contingent of permanent teachers since the beginning of the school year.

Due to persistent recruitment problems, three teaching positions remain unfilled at the all-grade francophone school in Mainland. The CSFP says retired teachers have been crucial to covering the gaps and the new rule for pensioners means École Sainte-Anne won't be short-staffed while the district tries to hire the full-time teachers it needs. 

"We understand it isn't ideal to not fill the positions, but the change allowed by the province benefits the daily operations at CSFP schools," wrote Kim Christianson, the school district's director of education, in a report presented to the CSFP's board of directors on Nov. 28.

"The CSFP has tried to convince retired teachers to take contracts to fill vacant positions. However, they do not wish to come out of retirement for different reasons.… The government has recognized these challenges and has increased by 25 days the number of days retired teachers can work without affecting their pension plan," the report reads.

In an interview Tuesday with Radio-Canada, Christianson said, "Often, retired workers would rather not take a long-term contract, over several months, for example, because it requires more preparation and because it's a more substantial commitment.

"The fact that we're in a pandemic, that there are restrictions and public health orders, it creates a situation where retired teachers have concerns. Even those who could return to work don't want to for X, Y or Z."

200 retired teachers filling in amid shortage

The Department of Education says the rule will remain in effect until further notice.

Tina Coffey, a spokesperson for the department, told CBC News about 200 retired teachers have been approved to be hired as a substitute or on a term contract for the current school year. That's about 20 per cent more than in 2019-20, when 167 retirees worked as substitutes or took short-term contracts.

A last resort

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said the new rule for retirees should apply only in emergency situations.

"It should also be noted that this can only be implemented where a qualified substitute teacher cannot be found. The purpose is to provide greater flexibility and ensure minimal interruption in teaching should we be faced with ongoing substitute shortages", said NLESD spokesperson Cheryl Gullage.

Newfoundland and Labrador isn't the only province to have change its rules for retired teachers since the beginning of the pandemic.

The New Brunswick Teachers' Pension Plan has temporarily eliminated a rule that limited retired substitute teachers to working 80 days a year. Nova Scotia has temporarily increased the number of days a retired teacher can teach in a school year from 69.5 to 99.5 days, while Ontario has extended its own limit from 50 days to 95 days a year. 

P.E.I. and British Columbia have no limits on how many days retired teachers can substitute teach without affecting their pensions. 

Quebec's education ministry announced in September it would double the daily compensation for retired teachers willing to re-enter the workforce amid a substitute teacher shortage.

The CSFP, which has five vacant teaching positions, says it hopes to have them filled by next June.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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