If you are responsible for the day-to-day administration of a pension plan, you should take the time to review a consultation policy on record retention released by FSCO just before the holidays.

Why should you be concerned?

Because the consultation policy imposes new obligations on plan administrators that will affect the day-to-day operations of all pension plans in Ontario. These measures are framed as “recommendations” but since they embody what FSCO considers to be the prudent approach to records retention they are, in effect, requirements. The consultation paper does not differentiate between big and small employers. The expectation seems to be that all plan administrators will comply with the policy.

The key recommendation is a requirement to establish a written record management and retention policy, which must address a prescribed list of items. These items include: the types of plan documents that must be retained and their retention period, where the documents will be stored, how the documents can be accessed, treatment of private and confidential documents, the process for maintaining a back up of the documents, the process for monitoring the documents and many other matters. These issues are also supposed to be addressed in any agreements with custodians and third party administrators.

FSCO’s consultation policy also addresses retention periods. FSCO recommends keeping copies of “general plan records” indefinitely, even after a plan is wound up because there is always a risk that an error was made in the wind up report. FSCO also specifies the information administrators are expected to retain in respect of terminated plan members, and recommends that employers take steps to educate plan members on the need to keep their personal records up to date and to maintain the flow of communication with terminated members.

FSCO is looking for comments on the consultation policy. If you have concerns, comments or questions, you should let FSCO know – FSCO wants to hear from all stakeholders.

The deadline for comments is February 26, 2010.