On October 22, 2019, the DOL announced new guidance that should go a long way toward bringing the delivery of ERISA-required disclosures and notices into the 21st Century. It should also provide significant cost savings for plan sponsors. This e-delivery safe harbor will be in addition to the safe harbor issued by the Employee Benefits Security Administration in 2002.
The new safe harbor e-delivery option will permit plan administrators to notify participants electronically that information is available online. The notice must include:
- a brief description of the document being posted online,
- instructions on how to access the information,
- information on how to receive paper versions of the information,
- how to affirmatively opt out of electronic delivery, and
- a telephone number to contact the plan administrator or other designated plan representative.
The proposed safe harbor includes standards for the website where disclosures will be posted and outlines system checks for invalid electronic addresses.
This safe harbor option eliminates the 2002 safe harbor requirement that participants must opt in to receive disclosures electronically outside of work email. The notice from the plan sponsor under the new guidance could be issued via work email, a plan sponsor-issued smartphone or a personal email address as supplied by the participant.
The DOL guidance seeks input on additional changes to the content, design, and delivery of ERISA-required disclosures. Comments are due by November 22, 2019. A fact sheet on the proposed e-delivery safe harbor option is available here.
Published November 7, 2019
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