The DOL issued a final rule on May 21, 2020 that establishes a new, voluntary safe harbor for retirement plan administrators who want to use electronic media, as a default, to furnish covered documents to covered individuals. Retirement plan administrators who comply with the safe harbor will satisfy their statutory duty under ERISA to furnish covered documents to covered individuals. Rather than sending potentially large volumes of paper documents through the mail, this new safe harbor allows plans that rely on the rule to be able to eliminate significant materials, printing, and mailing costs associated with furnishing printed disclosures.

The new safe harbor permits the following two optional methods for electronic delivery:

  • Website Posting. Plan administrators can post covered documents on a website as long as appropriate notification of internet availability is furnished to the electronic addresses of covered individuals.
  • Email Delivery. Alternatively, plan administrators can send covered documents directly to the electronic addresses of covered individuals, with the covered documents either in the body of the email or as an attachment to the email.

The new safe harbor is effective July 20, 2020, which is 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. The DOL, as an enforcement policy, will not take any enforcement action against a plan administrator that relies on this safe harbor before that date, which provides flexibility and may reduce administrative burden on employers and pension plan service providers during this unprecedented time.

Click here to read the final DOL rule.