COVID-19: working through a time of change

In this period of unprecedented change, we've got the resources you need to understand new legislation, find help for your business, run virtual meetings, and navigate the new normal.

A message from Patrick M. Murphy, CEO, John Hancock Retirement


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president on March 27, 2020. This act is the latest round of federal government support relating to the COVID-19 public health crisis and associated economic turmoil, and contains some significant retirement plan provisions. The CARES Act offers financial relief by temporarily relaxing the rules on three key provisions of qualified retirement plans.

Coronavirus-related distributions of up to $100,000 may be allowed in 2020 without penalty—for participants in eligible retirement plans—if they meet certain conditions. 


The relaxation of loan rules includes a temporary increase in the maximum loan amounts and a one-year extension to repayments due between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020.  


The 2020 required minimum distribution (RMD) waiver would allow plans to suspend making RMDs in 2020 and would apply to participants who turned age 70 1/2 in 2019 and had not yet received their 2019 distribution. 


Helpful resources for our business partners

Use these links to find help for small business owners, guidance from health authorities, and resources for retirement plan professionals.

COVID-19-related help from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration website Go to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website

Critical information from health authorities

Go to the Centers for Disease Control website Go to the World Health Organization website Use this directory of local health departments

Resources for third-party administrators from the National Institute of Pension Administrators (NIPA)

Read about COVID-19 with NIPA

Information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Go to the FEMA website Get the facts on COVID-19 See how you can help

Virtual meetings fill the social distancing gap

Like many of you, most of us are working from home, but that doesn’t mean meetings stop—we just move them online.

How to go virtual with enrollment and education

There are several virtual options for educating participants and enrolling them in their plans: live and recorded webinars, one-on-one calls, multimedia, and interactive online tools.

Reach out to your relationship manager to set up and run virtual education meetings and share our best practices. We're here to help!  

Use our prepackaged market dynamics education campaign 

Retirement savers need education and guidance now more than ever. Whether you have a John Hancock plan or not, you can use our prepackaged market dynamics campaign to run education meetings, with flyers in English and Spanish.  

Making retirement plans work—despite the uncertainty

We're continuously monitoring, measuring, adjusting, and responding to meet the changing needs of our financial professionals, plan sponsors, and participants.

Our continued commitment to service

We’re fortunate to have a robust suite of virtual tools that allows us to continue to work effectively with each other and our business partners. Our planning, preparation, and testing mean that we’re ready to meet our clients' expectations as we collectively work through the realities of a global pandemic. 

Read about our response to COVID-19 Read about our response to the CARES Act

Our continued commitment to community

John Hancock, Boston Athletic Association, Governor Baker, and Mayor Walsh: Join us in turning the Commonwealth blue to thank the front lines  

Read the press release and access gratitude messages you can share

Participant activity amid the volatility

August marked six months since many American states and companies responded to the pandemic with shutdown and work-from-home orders. That’s six months of economic and market uncertainty—so we thought we’d take a look at what retirement plan participants have experienced and what actions they’ve taken. 

Participants are learning to live with market volatility

After an initial reaction to the pandemic and market volatility in March, during which the percentage of participants lowering their contribution rate spiked to 3.4%, the number of participants in our plans changing their contribution rates has returned to more normal levels of 1% to 2% of a plan’s population, on average. At the same time, the percentage of participants increasing their contributions fell, but in June started returning to normal levels. 

Stock market fluctuation also resulted in a spike of participants changing their investments in March, but that activity has also slowed down considerably and is back to normal levels. We see reflections of the pandemic’s uncertainty, however, in what people are doing with their money. Among those who changed their investments, a larger percentage moved to stable value than in July 2020 or in August 2019—showing a desire for certainty. 

Looking for relief in the CARES Act and retirement plans

For participants who have suffered from COVID-19 or its economic impact, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act has offered some relief. Although calls to our participant service center have come down from their highs earlier in the pandemic, CARES-Act-related calls continue to make up more than 10% of total call volume.

CRDs—Less than 1% of our participants have taken a coronavirus-related distribution (CRD). The number of CRDs taken hit a peak in June and have come down a bit since then. The average amount taken has been between $18,983 and $20,399, other than the April high of $26,174.

Loans—The CARES Act also raised the amount participants could take as a 401(k) loan. Again, less than 1% of participants have done so, but that activity has increased gradually since April. The average amount taken spiked to almost $13,500 in May, and has since come down closer to pre-pandemic levels.

All participant data mentioned above is John Hancock’s internal data as of August 31, 2020, for the open-architecture platform only. As of June 30, 2020, the open-architecture platform included approximately 1.3 million participants and 2,009 plans.
Fund categories were defined as target-date fund, stable value/fixed income, growth and income, equity, asset allocation, and other. A participant in ≥2 fund categories was labeled as diversified. A participant who changed from ≥2 fund categories to ≥2 other categories—or asset allocation alone—was labeled as having rediversified. 
A widespread health crisis, such as a global pandemic, could cause substantial market volatility, exchange-trading suspensions and closures, affect the ability to complete redemptions, and affect fund performance; for example, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has resulted in significant disruptions to global business activity. The impact of a health crisis and other epidemics and pandemics that may arise in the future could affect the global economy in ways that cannot necessarily be foreseen at the present time. A health crisis may exacerbate other preexisting political, social, and economic risks. Any such impact could adversely affect the fund’s performance, resulting in losses to your investment.
For complete information about a particular investment option, please read the fund prospectus. You should carefully consider the objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. The prospectus contains this and other important information about the investment option and investment company. Please read the prospectus carefully before you invest or send money. Prospectus may only be available in English.

Help with the new normal

Working from home? Managing a team remotely? It comes with extra challenges when everyone in your household is also home. We’ve got some best practices for the new remote workplace and some ideas to keep your kids busy.

Set yourself up for success 

Managing your team remotely?

  • Leading teams remotely webinar from Harvard Business School 
  • Tips for managing remote workers from LEADx
  • How smart leaders can help their teams navigate the global COVID-19 crisis webinar from Bates Communications   


Try socializing from a distance

Schedule a virtual coffee klatch, water cooler conversation, lunch and learn, or happy hour with your favorite video conferencing app.

Here's how we're keeping our kids occupied while we're all home together

Cook together

  • Stage your own episode of Chopped with whatever you have in the pantry
  • Order pre-prepped recipes and make dinner as a family
  • Have each family member pick a night to cook or to choose the meal

And make clean up more fun with a dance party set to the kids' favorite music.  

Fun ways to reach out to the grandparents

  • Have the grandparents read bedtime stories on Facetime or a video call
  • Invite remote family members to play Words with Friends, Quiz Up, Fleet Battle, or any of your other favorite game apps
  • Host a trivia or Pictionary night with the cousins on your favorite video conferencing platform 


More digital resources for kids and families

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