Benefit plan managers seem to be divided on whether distributing more plan notices electronically would have any effect on plan participants’ inability to find, summon the energy to read, or understand the notices.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), an arm of the U.S. Labor Department, posted a request for comments about electronic disclosure requirements for benefit plans earlier this month.
Comments are not due until June 6, but EBSA already has posted 15 electronic disclosure comments, with many coming from managers at small and midsize employers and small benefits firms.
Claudia Jean Hanner of South Sioux City, Neb., says electronic notices are no help at all to most of her company’s 40 employees.
“Most of them do not have internet access,” Hanner says. “When the notices are set up for electronic delivery, many times they are not set up as printable. Then we have no way to present to the employees.”
Sharon Veronica Fox, who works for a bank in Athens, Tenn., says employees should still have the option to see paper documents.
“Many people do not have computers nor the computer literacy to be able to access electronic formats,” Fox says. “As a corporate trustee, I can personally assure you that education is difficult enough to teach the majority of participants about the advantages of a 401(k) and to get them on board to save for retirement. … While we are being thrown into the electronic age, the average employee has little access to computer expertise.”
Jerry Suther of Liberty, Iowa, says everyone should be honest and admit that “probably less than
10% [of employees] ever read the disclosed information.”