Guide To Email Delivery Of Plan Notices

Key Takeaway

This guide is intended for use by employers who wish to use the Department of Labor (DOL) Safe Harbor guidance (DL Reg 2520.104b-31(k)) for email delivery of required notices/disclosures to plan participants. The following is a step-by-step guide to establishing and maintaining an electronic delivery program.

  1. 1

    Obtain Participant Email Addresses. Employers may use either an employer-provided email address or the personal email address of participants.

    • A personal email address is preferred. If you use an employer-provided email, you will be required to provide the participant with paper notices at the time they terminate employment. Personal emails avoid this issue.
    • The employer-provided email cannot be one solely provided for the purpose of electronic disclosures. It must be an email that the employee uses for other work reasons.
  2. 2

    Establish the Opt-out Procedure. The employer must establish the process that will be used by the participant to request a paper copy of a single document or to globally opt-out of electronic delivery.

    • The employer has discretion regarding the process, but it must be reasonable and communicated to the participant. It cannot contain provisions or be administered in a way, that inhibits or hampers the participant from opting out or requesting a paper copy.
    • Alerus suggests that the process be simple. If the participant wishes to opt out, they may do so by contacting a designated person or office and completing an opt-out form.
    • The opt-out process must be described in the Initial Paper Notice (Step 3 below).
    • Also, each time the employer sends a notice by email, they must remind the participant of their rights to request a paper copy or opt-out.
    • Available template: Request Paper Opt-out 
  3. 3

    Provide an Initial Paper Notice. The employer must provide the participant with an initial paper notice describing the use of electronic delivery and the participant’s right to opt out. This is a one-time obligation.

    Important Points

    • The initial notice must be on paper.
    • It must be hand delivered or mailed via the U.S. Postal service. It cannot be delivered electronically to the participant.
    • It must include the participant’s exact email address you intend to use. You cannot generically state that you will use email. The notice must include the individual’s email address that you captured in Step 1.
    • Available template: Initial Notice Electronic Delivery 
  4. 4

    Send Notices by Email. Once you have provided the Initial Notice in Step 3, you may deliver plan notices by email. The notice may be either an attachment or be displayed in the body of the email.

  5. 5

    Send Paper Notices to Select Participants. You must deliver paper notifications under the following circumstances:

    • A participant did not receive the Initial Notice.
    • A participant opted out of electronic delivery.
    • The participant had an employer-provided email and was terminated without providing you with a personal email.
    • You received a bounce back (failed delivery notice of email) and the participant did not provide you with an updated email address.

    You may deliver paper notices either in person or by U.S. Mail.

  6. 6

    Miscellaneous Rules.

    Documents and emails must not contain the participant’s personal information. Email is not secure. Do not include Social Security numbers, plan balances, or other personally identifiable information when using electronic delivery.

    You must use electronic documents capable of being read, saved, printed, and searched. A pdf file format generally will meet these criteria.