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DOL Regulations for Electronic Distribution of ERISA Disclosures

29 June 2017 By Barry E. Fields

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is under what circumstances can documents be distributed electronically by e-mail, by company intranet, etc.

Department of Labor (DOL) regulations contain a safe harbor under which employee plans may use electronic means to distribute certain documents and other information required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The following documents and/or notices may be distributed electronically if certain conditions (described below) are met:

§ Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD);
§ Summaries of Material Modifications (SMM);
§ Summary Annual Reports (SAR);
§ COBRA Notices;
§ Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC); and
§ Notice of Health Insurance Marketplace Coverage Options.


Work E-Mail:

Documents can be sent via email (without consent) to employee’s work e-mail address, as long as the following is in place:


1. the work e-mail is specifically for and used by the employee on a regular basis as a part of daily work responsibilities;

2. an actual receipt of transmitted information is confirmed, such as through failure to deliver notice, periodic review or survey of employees to confirm materials are being received or confirmation receipt received by sender from recipient;

3. the e-mail includes a statement as to the significance of the document;

4. contains the right to request a paper version at no cost and instructions on how to request a copy; and

5. notice content does not contain any identifiable protected personal information.

Personal E-Mail:

If employees do not have a primary work-issued e-mail address, they may elect, with written consent, to provide the employer with a personal e-mail address for receipt of specific electronic notice. This consent must be obtained yearly and must include the following:

1. the types of documents to which the consent would apply;

2. that consent can be withdrawn at any time without charge;

3. the procedures for withdrawing consent and for updating the participant's, beneficiary's or other individual's address for receipt of electronically furnished documents or other information;

4. the right to request and obtain a paper version of an electronically furnished document, including whether the paper version will be provided free of charge; and

5. any hardware and software requirements for accessing and retaining the documents.

Company Intranet:

Employers may post documents to a designated site on the Internet. Under this method, the employer must ensure employees have the ability to and can access these documents at will during and after business hours. Employers must provide a separate notification sent via electronic or non-electronic method to each employee notifying them of:

1. the document’s availability;

2. the importance of the information contained in the documents; and

3. the right to receive this information by another acceptable means, non-electronic or electronic, as described above.

Please let me know if you would like to see sample documents that address a variety of these circumstances such as the Consent for Electronic Delivery, Email Notice of Important Document, and an Acknowledgment of Receipt of Important Documents.

Barry E. Fields
Vice President, Employee Benefits

960 Holmdel Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Direct: 908-406-7000 | Fax: 732-834-0233

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Last modified on Thursday, 29 June 2017 13:46

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