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Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds
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Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds

Q&AEmployers FAQ


Click on the category below to expand the questions.


Enrollment and Eligibility

To join WRS, employers who meet the criteria of a public entity must file a resolution.

The employer's Governing Body must adopt a resolution and it is irrevocable. A resolution may become effective only on January 1st. The preceding November 15th is the filing deadline. Once filed, a resolution may not be withdrawn after November 15th. When an employer joins the WRS, participation may not be limited to a particular employee group. All employees who meet specific eligibility criteria must be enrolled.

An important aspect of joining the WRS is deciding what amount of Prior Service credit, if any, employees will be given. On the resolution form, each employer will be required to recognize a specific percentage of prior service credit. Prior Service Credit means service rendered by eligible employees prior to the effective date of the employer's participation under the WRS. Prior service applies to each person who becomes a participating employee on the employer's effective date of participation under the WRS. An employer may elect a percentage of prior service from zero percent to 100 percent in increments of 25 percent. The cost associated with prior service credit is the employer's responsibility. ETF recommends the employer request a cost study before filing a resolution on which a percentage of prior service other than zero is elected.

To obtain additional information about how to join the Wisconsin Retirement System, refer to How to Participate in WRS (ET-1129) or call the Employer Communication Center at 608-264-7900.

The criteria listed in Section 40.22 of the Wisconsin statutes are the only measure for WRS eligibility. If employees, who are covered by their employer's WRS resolution, meet the eligibility requirements listed in the statutes, they must be enrolled. Eligible employees have no choice. Employers cannot exclude certain groups--for example, based on seasonal or part-time status or based solely on contractual agreement. Nor can employers choose to enroll employees who do not meet the eligibility criteria based on demonstrated loyalty or based on contractual agreement.

Employees who disagree with their employer's determination, may appeal to the Employee Trust Funds Board for a decision on their WRS eligibility. Therefore, it is recommended that employers document the pertinent factors used to determine that an employee is not eligible. For example, the employer's expectations of hours and duration of employment for a new employee; any changes in expectations; evaluation on the one-year anniversary date; and continuous monitoring, using the rolling forward method of evaluating eligibility.

For detailed information on WRS eligibility criteria, refer to Chapter 3 of the WRS Administration Manual, ET-1127. The eligibility criteria are different for teachers and non-teachers.

Descriptions of each category can be found in Chapter 3 of the WRS Administration Manual, ET-1127. Careful consideration should be taken to choose the correct category because the contribution rates and benefit payments vary in each category. Plus, employees can file an appeal with the ETF Board on their employer's selection of employment category. The statutes contain detailed descriptions for the following two employment categories:

  1. Teachers are defined in Section 40.02 (55), and include:
  2. "employees engaged in the exercise of any educational function for compensation in the public schools or the University in instructing, controlling pupils or students, or in administering, directing, organizing or supervising any educational activity, but does not include any employee determined to be an auxiliary instructional employee."
  3. Protective occupation participants, certain positions are listed in Section 40.02 (48), which must be reported in the protective category. In addition, the protective employment category definition includes employees whose principal duties: Involve active law enforcement or active fire suppression or prevention; provided the duties involve frequent exposure to a high degree of danger or peril; and also require a high degree of physical conditioning.

To make an employment category change for an employee who is moving from one employment category to another, refer to the description for using Action Code 10 in Chapter 8 in the WRS Administration Manual, ET-1127. To correct an employee's employment category that was incorrectly reported, refer to Retroactive Category Change Reporting mentioned later, or refer to the description for using Action Code 28 in Chapter 10 in the WRS Administration Manual, ET-1127.

Employers should perform a previous service check when hiring a new employee to find out if the employee has participated in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) before. Knowing if an employee has previously participated in the WRS is especially important in determining when an employee is eligible to participate in the WRS and insurance programs.

If an employer hires a former employee who previously participated in WRS within 12 months of terming and the employee has not applied for a benefit, that employee is eligible for WRS upon hire, irrespective of the duration of employment.

By conducting a previous service check, the employer will be informed if the employee has applied for a benefit. This may determine if the employee is eligible immediately or not for WRS participation.

If a previous service check is not conducted and prior WRS employment is not known, delays in filing any of the insurance applications can affect the employee's eligibility for insurance. A delay in filing either the life or income continuation insurance applications may require that the employee provide evidence of insurability to obtain coverage. Health insurance applications submitted beyond the due date require the employee to elect the standard plan with a 180-day waiting period for any pre-existing condition.

Completion of the life insurance application form requires employers to state that a previous service check has been done and the source used.

For additional information about previous service checks, contact the Employer Communication Center at 608/264-7900.

The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) provides several methods to help you determine if an employee has previous service with the Wisconsin Retirement System.

  1. Call the Employer Communication Center at 608/264-7900 and request a previous service check.
  2. Complete a WRS Previous Service Check (ET-1715) and FAX it to ETF at 608/266-5801.


  3. If you have Internet access, check the Previous Service Benefit Inquiry screen.*

*If you choose option number 3, it will be necessary to complete the Employer Extranet Application Security Agreement (ET-8928) and submit it to ETF.

If you have questions about the Previous Service Benefit Inquiry on-line, contact 608/267-2132.

Once an employee is eligible to participate in WRS, the employer must enroll the employee.

It is important for the employer agent to submit the enrollment form entitled, "Wisconsin Retirement System Enrollment" ET-2316, as timely as possible after determining that the employee has met the eligibility requirements for WRS. If the enrollment form is not submitted timely, the employee could have a difficult time establishing identification when contacting ETF with specific inquiries for their retirement account.

The enrollment form has various fields that must be completed before submitting to ETF. A sample enrollment form, ET-2316, is included in Chapter 5 of the WRS Administration Manual.

The "Date of Hire" and the "Date WRS Participating Employment began with this Employer" are two fields on the enrollment form that could cause confusion for employers. Normally, these dates are the same. If an employee is hired who does not meet the eligibility criteria for WRS, but meets the criteria at a later date, the two dates on the form will not be the same.

WRS records are established by the date entered on the enrollment form entitled, "Date WRS Participating Employment began with this Employer". If an employee is not eligible for WRS when hired and the employer enters the hire date in the box intended for WRS eligibility, incorrect information will establish the employee's retirement records.

If the employer reports to ETF through electronic media using either tape or diskette or the employer is interested in using this reporting media, Chapter 12 of the WRS Administration Manual, ET-1127 gives detailed instructions for the method to submit an enrollment.

To terminate employees from WRS, the employer completes an Employee Transaction Report, ET-2533, following instructions in Chapter 8 of the WRS Administration Manual.

Reporting terminated employees within one week after final earnings have been paid ensures WRS benefit payments will be made timely to employees.

The employees' home addresses should be included on the Employee Transaction Report when reporting terminated employees. This address information enables inactive employees to continue to receive an annual Statement of Benefits directly from ETF.

If deductions are taken from employees' paychecks for Employee Required Contributions and/or for Benefit Adjustment Contributions, the amounts deducted should be included in those columns on the Employee Transaction Report. These amounts are used for tax information, at the time an employee's benefit is calculated.


Occasionally, it is necessary to correct a transaction that was incorrectly reported during the current year. For each Action Code used to report terminated employees on the Employee Transaction Report, ET-2533, there is a corresponding Action Code to make corrections. Refer to Chapter 8 or Chapter 23 of the WRS Administration Manual for the appropriate action codes.

  • To correct only the action date or last day paid, do not include hours and earnings on the report; report only the changed dates.
  • To add to or subtract from the hours and earnings reported on the original report, use the same action date and last day paid reported previously. Then, report only the difference in the correction, not the revised total. This method will only work if correcting a transaction that was reported within the current year.

When contributions are not paid in the year when due, the amount to be paid is computed with interest. The employee and employer contribution rates are based on the rates in effect when the payment should have been made. Interest at the effective rate is assessed on these contributions up to the date ETF receives the correction. Both the employer and the employee may be liable for back payments. The employer may elect to pay part or all of the employee amounts. However, the employee may not pay the employer share. There is no need to pay ahead as ETF will send an invoice that includes the amount due plus interest.

There are two separate seven-year statutes of limitation: s. 40.08 (10), which governs the deadline for corrections to service, earnings, contributions and benefits paid; and s. 40.06 (1) (e), which governs the deadlines for correcting the beginning date of WRS participation and the employment category designation.

Section 40.08 (10), of the statutes, provides that corrections may be made to previously reported WRS service and/or earnings if the request for the correction is made before the end of seven full calendar years from the date on which the alleged error occurred. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has ruled that the seven-year period of limitation begins on the date ETF issues a participant's final benefit upon retirement. Employers are advised to keep employee payroll and benefit records rather than discarding them as they can be billed for past service and earnings regardless of when the error occurred.

Section 40.06 (1) (e), limits corrections to employment category determinations for those hired on or after 1/1/82 and WRS coverage begin date determinations made on or after 4/27/84, to seven years from the date of the employer's initial determination; however, for corrections more than seven years after the date of the employer's initial employment category and/or WRS participation begin date determination, the employer must submit a letter describing the nature of the error and as much detail as possible.

These particular sections do not prohibit the correction of purely clerical errors. There is no time limit on demonstrable clerical errors.

When the number of hours and/or the amount of earnings reported to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) for a particular individual for a prior calendar year were incorrect, the employer must complete an Employee Transaction Report, ET-2533.

Item Incorrectly Reported Change Required Action Code Used Action Date Month and Day Action Year Follow-up
Under-reported hours and earnings Add ONLY the number of hours and the amount of earnings necessary to make the record accurate. 29 Month = 12

Day = 31
The year that requires the correction. Employer will receive an invoice showing the amount owed.
Over-reported hours and earnings Subtract ONLY the number of hours and the amount of earnings necessary to make the record accurate. 27 Month = 12

Day = 31
The year that requires the correction. Employer will receive an invoice show the amount of the credit.
Hours correction ONLY Report ONLY the difference in hours. Add or subtract hours to make the record accurate. 24 Month = 12

Day = 31
The year that requires the correction.  



The Wisconsin Statutes, governing administration of the WRS, include a section allowing employees the right to appeal two types of WRS determinations made by the employer.

Wisconsin Statute s. 40.06 (1) (e) 1 allows an employee to appeal their employer's determination that the employee is not eligible for WRS participation or the employee's designated employment category.

Wisconsin Statute s. 40.06 (1) (e) 1, limits the appeal to services rendered within seven years prior to the date the appeal is received by the ETF Board. Whether the seven-year statute of limitations is applicable to an employer's determination of an individual's coverage begin date and/or employment category is dependent on the laws in effect when the employee was hired by the employer.

Appeal of Employment Category Determination

If a participant was hired before January 1, 1982, the seven-year statute of limitations in Wisconsin Statute s. 40.06 (1) (e) does not apply because it did not go into effect until that date. Participants can file an appeal on an employer's determination of employment category to the ETF Board. The seven-year limit on employment category appeals applies to participants hired on or after January 1, 1982.

Appeal of Participation Begin Date Determination

If a participant was hired before April 27, 1984, the seven-year statute of limitations in Wisconsin Statute s. 40.06 (1) (e) does not apply because it did not go into effect until that date. Participants can appeal an employer's determination of the coverage begin date to the ETF Board. The seven-year limit on participation begin date appeals applies to employees hired on or after April 27, 1984.

Appeal Process

Employees file an appeal by writing a letter or submitting a completed Appeal Form (ET-4938) to the Appeals Coordinator at ETF.

Employee Trust Funds
Appeals Coordinator
P.O. Box 7931 
Madison, WI 53707-7931

A brochure entitled Employee Trust Funds' Administrative Appeal Process (ET-4943)is available for more information about the appeal process.

Employers will receive a written notice from the Appeals Coordinator once an employee files an appeal. The notice will specify the date for which a pre-hearing has been scheduled. A pre-hearing is scheduled to establish facts of the appeal. The pre-hearing may be a telephone conference call. Appeals may involve applying criteria no longer in effect. For information related to eligibility criteria or category definitions, call ETF at (608) 264-7900. Requestors will be asked to provide the dates covering the period of employment and the employment category. Applicable statues, rules and employer instructions covering that time period will be copied and mailed.

Next, the employer and employee and/or their representatives participate in a hearing held in Madison. The hearing examiner hears the issues brought to the appeal by both parties and recommends a decision to the ETF Board. The Board issues a final decision, which is mailed to the employee and the employer. Board decisions may be appealed to Dane County Circuit Court.

If the Board's decision involves making a change to an employee's WRS records, the employer will be instructed to submit the appropriate forms required to make the change. ETF will issue the employer a statement of the amount owed, if any. Employers are responsible for remitting amounts due to ETF, but they may choose to recover the employee's share of contributions plus interest.

Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL)

Prior Service Liability is the cost of providing benefits for service credit earned:

  1. Prior to an employer joining the WRS, or
  2. For providing benefit improvements based on service credit earned prior to the effective date of certain major benefit legislative changes, several of which have been enacted into law by the Legislature/Governor over time.

Your current balance is the net of:

  1. The original amounts determined for your employees' service prior to the time you came under the retirement system, plus
  2. The liability for statutory benefit changes, plus
  3. All interest that has been assessed on the liability, less
  4. All payments made.

Your monthly retirement contribution rate includes a small component for prior service liability (about one to two percent for most employers). Each month as you make retirement contributions, you are also making a payment for your prior service liability.

Your prior service contribution percentage rate is fixed at a level that is projected to be adequate to fully pay off the liability over the 30-year amortization period.

To minimize future interest charges, you have the option of paying off your liability faster. You can pay off the entire liability in a single payment, or simply make larger-than-required payments each year. If you are interested in paying off your liability early, ETF will develop a customized payment plan for you.

Interest is assessed at the "assumed" long-term retirement investments earnings rate on the outstanding balance of the liability at the end of each calendar year. The assumed rate applied to each employer's prior service outstanding balance currently is 7.2 percent.
The prior service contribution rates are based on a level percentage of payroll over the entire 30-year amortization period. This means that the contribution rate will remain constant, but the actual contributions will increase each year as the salaries of covered employees increase. During the early years, the salary base used to calculate contributions is low, and the contributions are less than the interest charges. Each year as covered wages increase, the contributions also grow until, in approximately the 20th year, the contributions are higher than the interest assessment. The contributions begin to reduce the liability until the end of 30 years, when the liability has been totally paid. The actuarial assumption of 3.2% annual salary growth is used.
Under current law, any liabilities remaining at the end of the 30-year amortization period will continue to be payable. Payments will continue on a monthly basis until full payment has been made. However, it is probable that before the end of 30 years the Legislature will pass new laws that will have an impact on prior service liability, contribution rates, and the amortization period.

Once you agree to fund prior service coverage for your employees, the granting of that service is irrevocable. The service remains available to those employees for calculating a retirement benefit, regardless of whether they continue in your employ, or move on to other employers.

Since the WRS remains liable to the participant for benefits based on having granted prior service, the employer who authorized the granting of prior service remains liable to the WRS for the cost of granting that service.

Yes, an employer may pay off the entire balance of their prior service liability in a lump sum payment. ETF can also provide a customized amortization schedule so the employer can pay down the prior service liability balance faster to reduce interest charges.
The interest rate charged on the unpaid prior service balance is based on the assumed rate of investment return for the assets in the WRS. The WRS cannot charge an interest rate that is less than what it expected to earn had the entire prior service liability been paid off immediately. To do so would not only violate the fiduciary requirements of the trust, but would result in higher liabilities to the system as a whole.
If the Legislature enacts new benefit changes that result in an unfunded prior service liability, that liability will be assessed to all employers, including those who have paid off their previous prior service liability.

To participate in any of the Insurance Programs, an employer must adopt a resolution. All resolutions must be certified and filed by the agent responsible for reporting to Employee Trust Funds (ETF). Each insurance program has specific requirements. Some require participation in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) and there are various effective dates specific to each program.

For any of the insurance programs, an employer may specify a later effective date, providing it falls on the first of the month. To obtain information about how to participate in the Health, Life, or Income Continuation Insurance Programs, call the Employer Communication Center at (608) 264-7900. A summary of the programs follows.


To be eligible to join the Health Insurance Program, an employer must already participate in the WRS. A resolution for Health Insurance becomes effective the first of the fourth month following receipt of the resolution by ETF.


Employers may join the Life Insurance Program if they participate in either the WRS or a Private Pension Program. There are four plans which employers may offer for employees. The Basic Life Insurance plan is a prerequisite for the other three Life Insurance Plans: Supplemental, Additional and Spouse and Dependent Plans. There is one Resolution form with separate entries for each of the four Group Life Insurance plans. Each Plan becomes effective the first of the fourth month following receipt of the Resolution form by ETF.

Income Continuation Insurance

To be eligible to join the Income Continuation Insurance Program or ICI, an employer must already participate in the WRS. The resolution for ICI becomes effective the first of the month on or after 90 days following receipt by ETF.

An additional myETF Employer FAQ section is also available.