Returning to Work after Retirement
Return to Work Program
In general, the Return to Work (RTW) program allows retired members of the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board (NMERB) to resume working for an NMERB employer after completing the approval process with NMERB and the NMERB employer. General information about the Return to Work Program is listed below.
Note: Return to Work 12 Consecutive Month Layout Program authorized by Section 22-11-25.1(A) NMSA 1978 and 126.96.36.199 NMAC will sunset effective January 1, 2024. Programs available after January 1, 2024 include: RTW .25 FTE or less; RTW less than $15,000; and RTW 36 Months. Detailed information about these programs are available on the RTW Comparison Table page.
Questions & Answers
The questions and answers (Q&A) below address questions NMERB has been asked about the Return to Work (RTW) program. Click the plus sign to read the questions and answers for each topic.
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Application to the Return to Work Program Questions
Q: Do I still have to apply to participate in the Return to Work program?
A: Yes. NMERB retirees who return to work for a Local Administrative Unit (LAU), which is an NMERB affiliated employer, must submit a Return to Work application. The Return to Work application is available on the Forms page of the NMERB website. Retirees working under the .25 FTE or less RTW provision or the Less than $15,000.00 per year provision must also submit a Return to Work application to NMERB.
Q: Do I need to complete the Return to Work application every year?
A: No. Once you have completed the Return to Work application and are approved and eligible, you only need to complete a new application if you have a status change. For example, if you move from the Return to Work program to the Return to Work Less than $15,000.00 provision you must complete the Return to Work application.
Q: Will existing employees working under the Return to Work exception be required to submit a Return to Work application to NMERB?
Q: How soon after I retire can I turn in my Return to Work Application into NMERB and how long will it take NMERB to approve? Does the retiree have to wait for approval prior to working under the Return to Work provision?
A: You can complete your application immediately upon retirement or as soon as it is convenient; however, all retirees must wait for approval from NMERB prior to returning to work. NMERB will process all Return to Work Applications as quickly as possible but not prior to your effective retirement date. You can expect a turnaround time of approximately 5-7 business days. Upon approval, a copy will be mailed or emailed to the retiree, the retiree is responsible for providing a copy of the approved Return to Work Application to their employer.
Q: Does the Return to Work program and provision apply to Alternative Retirement Plan (ARP) members?
A: Yes. An ARP retiree who returns to work for a Local Administrative Unit (LAU) must do so under NMERB’s Return to Work program or the Return to Work provision. ARP retirees must also complete a Return to Work Application prior to beginning work after retirement.
“Layout” / 12 Consecutive Month Related Questions
Important Notice: Return to Work 12 Consecutive Month Layout Program – RTW Application required; Program sunsets January 1, 2024.
The Return to Work (RTW) 12 Consecutive Month Layout program authorized by Section 22-11-25.1(A) NMSA 1978 and 188.8.131.52 NMAC will sunset effective January 1, 2024.
As of December 31, 2023, this program will no longer be available for new participants. This program is only available to retired members who have: completed or will complete the 12-month layout; submitted a RTW application; received NMERB approval; provided a copy of the approved application to their employer; and began working on or before December 31, 2023.
Those participating in this program on December 31, 2023 may continue until they withdraw from the program. On or after January 1, 2024, an NMERB retiree withdrawing from the program will not be allowed to submit an application to return to this program.
Please view the RTW Comparison Table on for additional information on the various return to work programs available to NMERB retirees.
Q: What do you mean by “layout” period?
A: In the 12 consecutive month layout period, you must not have worked for an NMERB employer or contractor. You also cannot have served as a volunteer in a position that would otherwise be, or in the past has been, performed by a paid employee or an independent contractor. You may work for any non-NMERB employer as long as the non-NMERB employer was not working under a contract for an NMERB employer.
Q: Do I still have to layout the 12 consecutive months after retirement in order to qualify for Return to Work?
A: Yes. The 12 consecutive month layout period has not changed. However, note that if you retired before January 1, 2001 and have not since suspended your retirement, or been required to suspend your benefits, you still do NOT need the 12 consecutive month layout. Any retired NMERB member who wants to participate in the Return to Work program must apply through NMERB.
Q: I have gone back to work under the Return to Work provision and now want to apply for the Return to Work program. May I do this?
A: If you have completed the 12 consecutive month layout period, at some point, and are now working as a contractor or under the Return to Work provision, you may apply for the RTW program. However, if you have not completed a full 12 consecutive month layout period from employment after retirement, you would be ineligible for the Return to Work program. If you have completed your 12 consecutive month layout and returned to work under the Return to Work provision, you may apply for the Return to Work program. When your application is approved, you may then work more than 0.25 FTE.
Q: What are the penalties for violating the Return to Work program rules?
A: Retirees are responsible for complying with all Return to Work statutes and rules. There are penalties if a retiree returns to work without complying with applicable statutes and rules. A violation of RTW statutes and rules will cause a retiree to be required to pay back all pension payments plus interest received during the period of ineligibility.
Q: If I wanted to suspend my retirement and go back to work full time, would there be penalties?
A: No. Welcome back!
Q: If I suspend my retirement, work from 2019 to 2025 and then decide to re-retire, and start getting my retirement check, will there be any penalties?
A: No. In fact, you will likely have an increase in your retirement benefit due to the additional years you have worked after you have suspended your retirement. However, every situation is unique and different. You may wish to speak with an analyst for more information about your specific account and retirement, or email our help desk.
PERA Retiree Questions
Q: May I work for a Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) employer as part of my 12 consecutive month layout?
A: Yes, NMERB Retirees may work for a PERA employer during their 12 consecutive month layout period. The only exception would be if the NMERB retiree is a licensed educator working for a state agency in an education-related program. If this would be the case for you, you could not work for that employer unless you had already completed your 12 consecutive month layout. Check with NMERB to determine whether a 12 consecutive month layout would be required before accepting a position in such a program. Remember, if you are an NMERB retiree and you work for a PERA employer, you cannot contribute to PERA; and you cannot earn time toward a PERA pension.
Q: Do PERA Retirees now pay non-refundable NMERB contributions?
A: As of June 1, 2020, PERA retirees who work for an NMERB employer will no longer pay contributions to NMERB. However, any contributions paid into NMERB from July 1, 2019 through May 30, 2020 will remain in your NMERB account until you terminate your employment. Upon termination you can request a refund of those contributions plus interest.
Withdrawal from Return to Work Program Questions
Q: Do I need to complete an Application to Withdraw from Return to Work Program form if I want to be removed from the Return to Work program and begin working under one of the other provisions?
A: Yes. In order to be removed from the Return to Work program you must submit an Application to Withdraw from the Return to Work Program. This form is available on the Retiree Forms and Documents page of the NMERB website. Upon approval of the fully completed form, you may complete a Return to Work application under the .25FTE or Less or the Less than $15,000.00 per year provisions.
Q: Do I need to complete an Application to Withdraw from Return to Work Program form if I want to be removed from the Less than $15,000.00 per year and begin working under the Return to Work program?
A: No. You only need to complete the Application to Withdraw from Return to Work Program form when removing yourself from the Return to Work program as described in Section 22-11-25.1 NMSA 1978 and 184.108.40.206 NMAC.
Refundable / Non-refundable Contribution Questions
Q: Will I be able to receive a refund of my retirement contributions made during the time I am working under the Return to Work Program?
A: If you’re participating in the RTW program your contributions are non-refundable.
Working for a Temp Agency Question
Q: What if I decide to begin employment with ABC temp services and return to the classroom in the fall?
A: ERB cannot advise against working for a temp agency that provides services to a local administrative unit, however, if ERB can determine that the above-mentioned return-to-work laws have been violated, ERB may suspend your pension and reclaim any pension payments made during the period of ineligibility.
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