Electronic SPD Distribution Subject to DOL Rules
Q: It’s time consuming and expensive to print and distribute the summary plan descriptions (SPDs) and other plan materials for our medical and dental plans. Can I just e-mail them to employees, or better yet, post them on our company intranet site?
A: Distribution of group health plan materials, including SPDs and other plan notices, is subject to regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The existing DOL rules provide that you may distribute plan materials electronically, but whether your employees have access to their own individual work computer (i.e., not just a kiosk in the break room), determines how you may go about the distribution. If your employees have access to a personal computer as an integral part of their job duties (i.e., they work on a desktop or laptop computer everyday), then you have free reign to distribute plan materials electronically, whether by e-mail, or by posting them on a company intranet or internet site.
If, however, you have employees who do not have access to an individual work computer (e.g., drivers, production workers, warehouse workers, etc.) then you may give them the option to receive their materials electronically, but you must first obtain their consent electronically in a way that demonstrates their ability to access those electronic materials. So, for example, if you want to distribute materials via e-mail, you would need to have the employee send you a written consent via e-mail. Other rules governing the form and content of the consent and technical requirements apply as well, and you must always give employees the option to receive a paper copy at no charge. Your Vigilant staff representative can advise you on compliance with these rules and provide sample language to obtain employees’ electronic consent.
For more answers to legal questions about employee benefits, visit our Employment Law Advice blog.