Single- and multi-employer defined benefit pension plans differ

April 07, 1999

About one-fifth of all workers with traditional pension plans are covered by multi-employer, as opposed to single employer, plans. Multi-employer plans enable employees to gain credit towards a pension from work with several different employers. Portability and age-of-retirement provisions differ in these two types of plans.

Percent of employees covered by select provisions in single- and multi-employer defined benefit pension plans, 1994-95
[Chart data—TXT]

Portability agreements with other plans apply to 60 percent of employees under multi-employer plans compared to 3 percent of those under single employer plans. These provisions allow participants to transfer years of credited service or accumulated benefits from one plan to another. Because multi-employer pension plans are typically found in industries characterized by workers who switch employers frequently (in some cases to employers not participating in the original multi-employer plan), a greater need exists for such portability of benefits.

Multi-employer plans are more likely than single-employer plans to provide normal (unreduced) retirement benefits for those retiring before age 65. In 1994-95, some 52 percent of employees in single-employer plans could not retire until age 65, compared with 33 percent of employees in multi-employer plans. Furthermore, some 39 percent of employees in multi-employer plans could retire at age 62, compared with only 23 percent of employees covered by single-employer plans.

These data are a product of the BLS Employee Benefits Survey. Additional information is available from "Multiemployer Pension Plans" (PDF 37K), Compensation and Working Conditions, Spring 1999.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Single- and multi-employer defined benefit pension plans differ on the Internet at (visited September 26, 2016).


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