Returning to Work

for IMRF Retirees
Paperwork

Call IMRF Before You Return to Work

You can face serious financial consequences if you don’t follow the laws that apply to receiving a public pension while working for a public sector employer. You must call IMRF if you plan on working for any IMRF employer after you begin receiving your IMRF pension -- even as an independent contractor.

How a return to work can hurt you financially

If you return to work for an IMRF employer and your pension should be stopped but you continue to receive it, you may have to pay back a significant amount of money. IMRF is required by law to:

This can add up to a large amount of money. You may have to pay this money back from your future pension payments, which can significantly reduce the amount of your pension for a long time—sometimes for many years.

Overview of Return to Work Rules

Return to work rules are complex, and not all rules are listed on this page. Some of the main points include:

  1. If you return to work in a position that qualifies for IMRF participation, you must immediately be enrolled in IMRF and your pension must stop.
  2. If you return to work in a position that does not initially qualify for IMRF participation, you must keep track of the hours you work. If you end up working enough hours to meet or exceed your employer's hourly standard, you must immediately be enrolled in IMRF and your pension must stop, or you must immediately stop working. See the chart below for additional details.
  3. If you retired under the IMRF Early Retirement Incentive, you can never return to work for any IMRF employer, even in a position that does not participate in IMRF or as an independent contractor. (An exception may exist for certain elected positions, call IMRF for details.)
  4. If you retired under the Reciprocal Act and are returning to work for a reciprocal retirement system, you should call all systems you retired under to find out how your pension could be affected.
  5. If you are a Tier 2 retiree you have additional return to work restrictions. These restrictions include working for reciprocal systems even if you did not retire reciprocally, and performing work as an independent contractor. Call IMRF before returning to work for any public sector employer in Illinois.

Change in Rules for Non-participating Positions

Recent legislation requires you to re-enroll in IMRF if the actual hours you work for an IMRF employer in a 12-month period exceed either 599 or 999—even if the position you are working in was not "normally expected" to exceed your employer's hourly standard.

Rules for Returning to Work in a Non-participating Position
If you return to work in a position that is not expected to qualify for IMRF participation, you must:
  • Contact IMRF to report your return to work and find out your employer's hourly standard  
  • Keep track of the hours you work in the 12 months following your most recent start date
 If within these 12 months you:
Then
Work below your employer's hourly standard (either 600 or 1,000 hours) Your pension payments will continue.
Are approaching your employer's hourly standard (either 600 or 1,000 hours) but you want your pension to continue You must stop working for that employer before you reach either 600 or 1000 hours. (You can work up to either 599 or 999 hours.) You cannot return to work for that IMRF employer until the one-year anniversary date of your employment. On that date:
  • Your return to work period is reset for the next 12 months
  • You can return to work for that employer until you again reach your employer's hourly standard in the following 12 months.
Reach or exceed your employer's hourly standard (either 600 or 1,000 hours) You must be re-enrolled in IMRF and your pension payments must be put on hold until you stop working for that employer. When you retire again, your pension will be recalculated using the additional service credit.
Unexpectedly reach your employer's hourly standard (for example you filled in for another employee and went over without realizing it) but you want your pension to continue You must immediately stop working for that employer in the same month you reach the hourly standard. The earliest date you could return to work for that IMRF employer without having your pension stopped is the one-year anniversary date of your employment.