This rule, “Default Electronic Disclosure by Employee Pension Benefit Plans Under ERISA” (“Rule”), which went into effect July 27th, 2020, has and will continue to:
This article is a reminder of the e-Delivery Rule requirements that are currently in effect as we move into year two of the rule. The following are key points employers and plan administrators should know:
This rule applies to covered individuals who are participants, beneficiaries, and individuals entitled to covered documents, who provide the plan with electronic access such as an email address or telephone number.
For retirement plans, the rule applies to any document that is required to be furnished pursuant to Title I of ERISA, except for those documents that must be provided upon request. This rule does not apply to employee welfare plans due to their uniqueness, but the Department continues to study the future application of the safe harbor for those plans.
The rule requires plans to provide each covered individual, as defined above, with an NOIA for each covered document, and in some cases, the NOIA can be combined for multiple covered documents. Key factors to consider when issuing these NOIAs are:
The rule includes two safeguards for covered individuals who might have different preferences as to how they obtain covered documents. First, the plan must furnish an individual a paper copy of the covered document free of charge, if elected. Second, at a minimum, covered individuals must be provided an option to opt-out of the right to receive the covered documents electronically. Plan administrators may elect to offer additional opt-out elections if they choose.
In some cases, the plan may provide one annual combined NOIA for one or more covered documents. The documents eligible to be included in the combined NOIA are:
In response to feedback from many commentators, the Department added a provision to the rule allowing plans to furnish covered documents to covered individuals via email rather than just providing a website or hyperlink within the NOIA. If documents are sent using this method, the plan administrator is no longer required to send an NOIA, but the body of the email must include similar content and form as noted for the NOIA above.
In conclusion, the first year of implementation of the rule has shown great benefits to plan administrators, especially due to the impacts of COVID-19. However, it is important to note that the rule does not supersede the 2002 safe harbor, rather it offers an alternative option for employers and plan administrators. Those who wish to continue to rely on the 2002 safe harbor for electronic delivery, or to furnish paper documents by hand-delivery or by mail, may continue to do so. For additional information about this rule, refer to the Federal Register – The Daily Journal of the United States Government.