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Labor Department Proposes New Safe Harbor For Electronic Disclosure Under ERISA

12.2.19

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued proposed regulations updating the safe harbor for the electronic delivery of employee benefit plan notifications for plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). A copy of the proposed rules can be found here.

This is welcome news for employers who have long struggled to comply with the complex and antiquated rules of the current safe harbor. However, the new rules as proposed only provide relief relating to required retirement plan notifications.

Brief Background

As background, the Trump administration issued Executive Order (EO) 13847 on August 31, 2018. The EO, entitled “Strengthening Retirement Security in America,” directs the DOL to provide guidance making retirement plan disclosures under ERISA easier to read for participants and beneficiaries. It also calls for reducing the compliance burden on employers who must produce and distribute the ERISA-required notices and disclosures. In response to the EO, the DOL issued the proposed safe harbor updating the current rules for electronic disclosure.

The federal agency has requested comments on the proposed safe harbor and on ideas for improving the content requirements of ERISA disclosures, including with respect to both retirement and health and welfare plans. The DOL appears willing to include welfare plan communications under simplified electronic disclosure rules, but noted that it needs additional time to consider the impact. The proposed safe harbor for electronic disclosure will be effective 60 days after final regulations are published.  

Key Provisions

Here is an overview of some of the key notice and access requirements plan administrators would be required to follow if you post retirement plan notices online: 

Conclusion

The DOL requested public comments on the proposed safe harbor, which were due in late November. In addition, the DOL requested comments and input on ideas for additional measures it could take in the future to improve the effectiveness of ERISA disclosures, including with respect to both retirement and health and welfare plans. Accordingly, we can expect to see more changes coming with respect to the ERISA disclosure requirements relating to both delivery and content. We will monitor developments and provide updates as warranted.

For more information, contact the author at LMaring@fisherphillips.com or 404.240.4225.

Attorneys

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