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Senator introduces bill to give long-term part-time workers access to retirement plans

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Legislation that would give long-term part-time workers access to workplace retirement savings plans and add spousal protections for defined benefit plan participants was introduced Wednesday by Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The proposed Women's Pension Protection Act would also support financial literacy programs and other measures to enhance retirement security for women.

"Ensuring economic equality, opportunity and security for women means not only tackling the barriers they face in the workforce, but those they face in retirement as well. We know that, unfortunately, women are more likely to face poverty in old age, which is why I'm reintroducing the Women's Pension Protection Act to help address some of the challenges that disproportionately impact women as they plan for their financial futures," Ms. Murray said in a statement. She originally introduced the bill in 2015, but it did not advance.

The measure has 16 Senate co-sponsors — all of the female Democrats in the Senate — and has been endorsed by AARP, the National Women's Law Center, the Pension Rights Center, and the Society for Financial Education and Professional Development.

For long-term part-time workers, the legislation would amend the minimum participation standards for defined contribution plans, allowing them to participate when they reach age 21 or one year of service or at least 500 hours of service for two consecutive years. It would not apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements resulting from good faith bargaining. Plans failing to permit participation could be subject to a civil penalty of $10,000 per year per employee. It would apply to plan years beginning after Dec. 31, 2016.

Increased spousal protections under defined benefit plans provision would become effective for distributions and rollover contributions six months following the enactment of the bill.