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

June update

We’ve been following our retirement plan participants to see the actions they’re taking, so we can develop helpful engagement and solutions. The good news? Fewer people lowered their contribution rate in June 2020 compared to June 2019, less than 1% of participants are taking coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs), and less than 1% made changes to their investments. But the number of people taking CRDs is growing.

Calls and web visits

Call volume into our participant service centers was 5% higher in June than in May. Calls about CRDs have ebbed a bit since their peak in May, but calls about non-CARES-Act loans, and withdrawals, drove the increased volume. Web and mobile visits to the participant website have also increased, up 22% this June over last June. 

CRDs and loans

The number of people taking advantage of CRDs continued to increase in June, although the average distribution taken has come down since April. To put the use of CRDs in perspective, we compare them to in-service withdrawals. The number of CRDs and in-service withdrawals taken in June was 1,900% higher than the number of in-service withdrawals last June—evidence that people are in need and are looking for help. To put this further into context, very few people take any kind of withdrawal, including CRDs. June had the highest number of CRDs taken, but they were taken by only 0.8% of our participants.

Most likely because CRDs are available, the number of 401(k) loans taken is lower than normal—but the average amount taken was 25% higher compared to last June. 


Less than 1% of participants made changes to their investments in June—even so, this represents more than double the number of people who did so last June. After a large increase in participants moving into stable value in May, June brought a return to the investment changes we normally see people making, lining up very closely to the changes people made in June 2019. 

May’s big jump in stable value was largely driven by people younger than 30, which is very different from what we normally see. June behavior was much more in line with what we expect, with younger people seeking market returns and transactions becoming more conservative with each age group. 


All data mentioned above is John Hancock’s internal data as of June 30, 2020, for the open-architecture platform only. As of March 31, 2020, the open-architecture platform included approximately 1.3 million participants and 1,963 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.  

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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