On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule that will allow plan administrators to post retirement plan disclosures online or deliver them to employees by e-mail, as a default, to comply with their statutory duty to furnish documents under ERISA.
This new safe harbor permits the following two optional methods for electronic delivery:
Website posting—Plan administrators may post covered documents on a website, if appropriate notification of internet availability is furnished to the electronic addresses of covered individuals.
E-mail delivery—Alternatively, plan administrators may send covered documents directly to the electronic addresses of covered individuals, with the documents either in the body of the e-mail or as an attachment.
The final rule is limited to retirement plan disclosures, such as summary annual reports or pension benefit statements, but does not include documents that must be furnished only upon request. The final rule does not apply to employee welfare benefit plans, such as group health plans.
If using the new safe harbor, plan administrators should ensure compliance with the various protections for plan participants included in the final rule, such as initial paper notification and website retention requirements. More information about these requirements can be found in the DOL’s Fact Sheet.