Human Resources News & Insights

Want to eliminate paper plan docs? Here’s your chance

The Department of Labor wants your input on how to update the rules on providing benefit information electronically.

In 2002, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued regulations for the electronic distribution of benefit plan info — like summary plan descriptions, individual benefit statements and COBRA notifications.

In a nutshell, the regs say plan info can be distributed electronically to employees who have access to electronic info at work as part of their duties — and to those who have signed a consent form allowing their employer to supply the info electronically.

One common way employers try to stay in compliance while eliminating paper is to set up computer kiosks where employees who didn’t have regular access to a computer can obtain plan info during the workday.

Soon, even that may not be necessary, as the DOL is thinking about changing its regs on electronic plan info distribution.

DOL: Technology has evolved

In a notice published in the Federal Register on April 7, the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) said there has been substantial advancements in technology since the regs were originally issued — including the expansion of wireless phone use, improvements in computing power and the introduction of smartphones and other portable computing devices.

As a result, the EBSA said its welcoming comments on whether it should update its electronic disclosure regs.

The agency wants to know if the 2002 rules should be changed — and whether disclosure rules should vary for different plan documents.

Comments are due by June 6, 2011. They can be emailed to e-ORI@dol.gov. The subject line must be: RIN 1210-AB50.

You can also mail comments to:

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Regulations and Interpretations
Employee Benefits Security Administration, Room N-5655
200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210
Attn: Electronic Disclosure by Employee Benefit Plans RFI.

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