Question: Our company is getting ready for open enrollment. Can we distribute ERISA notices electronically instead of printing and delivering hard copies?
Answer: Yes, electronic delivery complies with ERISA’s disclosure rules – but certain conditions must be met.
First, whether delivered in hard copy or electronic media, ERISA requires preparing and furnishing materials “in a manner consistent with applicable style, format, and content requirements.” It is a good idea to test electronic documents to make sure the formatting and style are correct.
Secondly, materials must be furnished using “measures reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt.” For instance, if using a traditional delivery method, such as first-class mail, be sure to follow up on any undelivered/returned mail.
For electronic delivery, the compliance rules work differently depending on whether the recipients have regular access to the employer’s electronic information system:
Both groups of recipients must be notified of their rights to receive paper copies of the documents (at no charge), and reasonable and appropriate steps must be taken to safeguard confidentiality of personal information related to benefits. A best practice is for employers to ensure return-receipt or notice of undelivered mail features are enabled. Employers may conduct periodic reviews or surveys to confirm receipt as well.
Just emailing documents or posting them on the company’s intranet or benefit administration portal is not enough. Each time an electronic document is furnished, a notice (electronic or paper) must be provided to each recipient describing the significance of the document.
Need information about other benefit notices? ThinkHR customers can log into Comply for practical tips about required notices – and there are a lot of them – and convenient links to sample notices and model language. After you log in to your ThinkHR account, check out our white papers on Timeline of Benefit Notices and Open Enrollment Notices.