Wisconsin Retirement System Eligibility
Do you participate in the Wisconsin Retirement System? If you expect to work or have worked for the University for at least one full year in a non-student position, you may be eligible.
State statutes and the administrative rules of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) dictate the eligibility standards for coverage under the WRS. Employers are responsible for determining each employee's eligibility using these standards. If an employee disagrees with the employer's determination, he or she has a right to appeal to the Employee Trust Funds Board.
Section 40.22, Wis. Stats., provides that all employees of state agencies who are first employed on or after July 1, 2011 (which includes the University of Wisconsin) must be covered under the WRS except:
Employees not expected to work at least two-thirds of full time; and
Employees whose expected duration of employment is less than one year.
Two-thirds of full time is 880 hours per year for teachers and 1200 hours per year for all others. ("Teachers" includes academic staff of the University of Wisconsin.) "Year" is defined as 365 consecutive calendar days (366 in leap year). See Section ETF 20.015, Wis. Admin. Code.
Employees appointed to work for one academic year meet the duration standard if they have an expectation of renewal (e.g., if the appointment is "fixed-term renewable.") Terminal appointments of less than 365 days do not meet this standard.
If an employee is not expected to meet the eligibility standards at the time of hire, he or she may qualify later if the work situation changes. The employee also can qualify by working at least one-third of full-time during a one-year period. Each pay period, the employer should "look back" over the past year to determine: 1) whether the non-qualifying employee was employed one year ago and if so, 2) whether he or she has worked one-third of full time (counting all non-excluded positions) since then (s. 40.22(2m), Wis. Stats.). The employee must be enrolled in the WRS as soon as the "look back" standard is met or when expectations change.
Once an employee qualifies for WRS coverage, he or she continues to be eligible during subsequent periods of employment in any University position (other than positions excluded by statute), regardless of the number of hours worked, until employment has been terminated for at least twelve consecutive calendar months or the employee takes a WRS benefit (s. 40.22(3m), Wis. Stats.)
WRS Eligibility Rules for Employees Who Worked for any WRS Participating Employer Prior to July 1, 2011: Anyone initially employed by a WRS participating employer prior to July 1, 2011, either as WRS eligible or non-WRS eligible employee, must be expected to work at least one-third of full time per year (440 hours for unclassified staff and 600 hours for all others) in order to be eligible for WRS coverage. This includes anyone who worked in a non-WRS covered appointment such as an LTE, graduate assistant, student assistant, short-term academic, employee-in-training or student hourly prior to July 1, 2011.
Certain university positions are excluded from WRS coverage by statute. The most important exclusions are:
Student assistants and employees in training who are employed by the University are specifically excluded from WRS coverage, as are other student employees who are regularly enrolled and attending classes (s. 40.22(2)(g), Wis. Stats.)
- Visiting faculty who are on leave from another educational institution are excluded for the first twelve months of their UW employment (s. 40.22(2)(h), Wis. Stats.)
- Employees who have returned to work after beginning a WRS annuity ("rehired annuitants") are excluded unless they choose to terminate the annuity (s. 40.22(2)(L),Wis. Stats.)
Appeals from an employer's determination that an employee is not eligible for WRS coverage are described in s. 40.06(1)(e), Wis. Stats., and ch. ETF 11, Wis. Admin. Code. For more information, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds.
Members who begin WRS employment on or after July 1, 2011 must accrue five years of creditable service to be vested in the WRS. (Note: for part-time employees, accruing five years of creditable service may take longer than five years.) Members that begin WRS employment on or after July 1, 2011 that do not accrue five years of creditable service before terminating WRS employment will not be eligible to receive the employer contributions of their WRS account. They will only be eligible for a separation benefit, which includes any employee contributions and related investment earnings. The employer contributions and years of creditable service would be forfeited and their WRS account closed.
If a member were to work in a WRS-covered position for less than five years, leave that position, and subsequently return to a WRS-covered position without having taken a separation benefit, that person’s WRS employee and employer contributions would be unaffected by the termination (meaning their account would remain whole). They would also receive creditable service toward the five-year vesting requirement for years worked in the previous WRS-covered position.
Members who began WRS employment or worked for a WRS employer prior to July 1, 2011 are vested immediately under the WRS.
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This document was last revised on July 28, 2011