General Memo 688

General Memos

IMRF Board Resolution 20-08-08(a) Revises Return to Work Rules for Retirees


August 28, 2020

The IMRF Board of Trustees recently passed Board Resolution 20-08-08(a), which amends the return to work rules for IMRF retirees in accordance with the applicable statute, 40 ILCS 5/7-144. These rules will take effect on January 1, 2021, and apply to all current and future annuitants who begin employment on or after January 1, 2021.

Do Not Enroll Any Retirees in IMRF Until They Reach the Hourly Standard

Current rule in effect through December 31, 2020

Under the current return to work rules which are in effect through the end of 2020, employers must immediately enroll retirees when they are employed in a position that is expected to meet the applicable hourly standard.

New rule effective January 1, 2021

Under the new rules, employers should never immediately enroll retirees upon reemployment, even if they are employed in a position that is expected to meet the hourly standard. Instead, employers should only enroll retirees once they have actually worked the applicable hourly standard (600 or 1000 hours). Retiree hours are counted beginning on the first date of their reemployment, and will reset on the anniversary of their employment date every year after.

This is in contrast to non-retirees, who should be immediately enrolled if they are in a position which is expected to meet the hourly standard.

Suspension of a Retiree's Pension

If a retiree meets or exceeds the hourly standard in any 12-month period that begins with the retiree’s employment date, the retiree must either:

If the retiree chooses to stop working, they may only start working again for that employer when they enter into the next 12-month period. These 12-month periods are determined beginning on the retiree's employment date. The period ends and a new period begins on the next anniversary of the retiree’s employment date. These 12-months periods are fixed, and will not change if the employer terminates and rehires the retiree.

Example using an hourly standard of 1,000 hours
Retirement dates in this example
Date of retiree's original termination date for retirement: January 31, 2021
Effective date of retiree’s first pension payment: February 1, 2021
Separation of service and return to work dates in this example
To comply with the separation of service rules, the earliest date the retiree can return to work for any IMRF employer: April 2, 2021
Date of employment when the retiree returns to work: April 2, 2021
Date retiree reaches 1,000 hours worked: November 15, 2021
Date retiree must either immediately be enrolled and have their pension suspended, OR immediately stop working for this employer: November 15, 2021
Earliest date the retiree can start working for this employer again: April 2, 2022
Date every year that the 12-month return to work period will reset: April 2

Employment Dates of Retirees Who Retire Before January 1, 2021

Retirees who retire prior to January 1, 2021, may have already returned to employment and have had one or more employment dates. Any retiree who began employment after retirement and is not terminated prior to January 1, 2021, will continue to use the employment date that was established at the time that the retiree was last employed. For example, a retiree who returns to employment on September 1, 2020 and is not terminated in 2020, will continue to use September 1 as the employment date for all future employment with that employer. If the retiree reaches the hourly standard in February 2021, for example, the retiree must stop working. The retiree would be eligible to once again work as of September 1, 2021.

If multiple employment dates exist

If a retiree has been employed and then terminated, but later becomes reemployed by that same employer after January 1, 2021, the employment date will depend upon when the retiree was last terminated from that employer. If the reemployment occurs within one year of the retiree’s last termination date, the previous employment date will be used. For example, a retiree is employed from June 1 to December 1, 2020. On January 1, 2021, the retiree is reemployed by that same employer. The retiree and employer will continue to use June 1 as the employment date. However, if the retiree is reemployed one year or more after their last termination date, they will be required to reset their employment date one time. For example, the retiree is employed from June 1 to December 1, 2020. On December 1, 2021, the retiree is reemployed by the same employer. The retiree’s employment date will be reset to December 1, which will be used for all years with that employer thereafter.

If a Retiree Wants to Re-enroll in IMRF immediately

If a retiree returns to work in an IMRF-qualifying position, they can choose to immediately re-enroll in IMRF instead of waiting until they have worked enough hours to meet the hourly standard. They may do so only if they voluntarily suspend their IMRF pension.

Voluntarily suspending an IMRF pension

All retirees have the ability to suspend their pension at any time and for any reason by submitting a request to IMRF in writing. This is permitted under 40 ILCS 5/7-217(e).

Once the pension is suspended, the retiree is no longer considered an “annuitant”, and is treated like a non-retiree for IMRF participation purposes. The retiree may now be enrolled in IMRF earlier than a retiree who continues to receive their pension until they work enough hours to meet the hourly standard. If a retiree does not voluntarily suspend their pension, but works the minimum hourly standard within the 12-month period, continued work by the retiree will result in the pension being administratively suspended by IMRF.

Separation of Service is Required before a Return to Work

Under recently passed Board Resolution 2020-05-10(a), new retirees as of January 1, 2021 must abide by the new separation of service rules. After January 1, 2021, new retirees must separate from the service all IMRF employers to qualify for their pension. This means that an IMRF employee may not start their pension and continue working in their same job until they reach the hourly standard. All new retirees will be required to have a sixty-day gap in service between their pension start date and their return to work employment start date.

Financial consequences of violating separation of service rules

If a retiree is found to return to work, or has arranged to return to work prior to retirement or within 60 days thereafter, the retiree will be required to return all pension payments received from IMRF. See General Memo 686 for more information on the separation of service requirements.

Employers Must Abide by Return to Work Rules

Employers should always confirm whether a hired employee is an IMRF retiree for return to work purposes. Employers must also confirm that a hired employee who is an IMRF retiree has retired at least 60 days prior to their return to work date. Once the retiree has been hired, both the IMRF employer and the retiree should track the number of hours that the retiree works. Once the hourly standard has been reached, the employer and retiree must decide whether the retiree will continue to work; if so, the retiree must be enrolled in IMRF and the pension suspended.

Financial consequences of violating return to work rules

The financial consequences for a retiree who works over the hourly standard for enrollment but continues to receive a pension may be substantial. Employers should take steps to avoid such consequences for their retiree-employees.

Be Cautious When Hiring an IMRF Retiree

Any retiree who returns to work for an IMRF employer is at risk of pension suspension, an accrued prepayment of benefits, and/or reenrollment in IMRF. Refer to the "Hiring IMRF Employees-Caution" page on for more information on the return to work rules for employers.


If you have questions about the new return to work rules, please contact IMRF at (630) 368-5365 to speak with a member of the Legal Department.