- A group representing large employers' concerns asked the U.S. Labor Dept. to allow plan sponsors to provide digital plan statements to beneficiaries, Employee Benefit News (EBN) reports. The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) made the request in a letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
- Digitizing plan statements would take the place of costly mailings, says EBN. Plan participants would continue receiving written statements if they choose. Currently, the DOL requires mailed disclosures, which are paid for by the plan sponsor or plan assets.
- Allowing plan sponsors to automatically default to electronic delivery of plan statements would improve communication between companies that sponsor health and retirement plans and their beneficiaries and save both parties money, ERIC told Acosta. Digitizing plan statements should be just the first step in modernization of government technology and processes, ERIC said.
If ERIC's assertions that defaulting to electronic delivery of plan statements would improve communication and save money are true, the move to digital benefits disclosures could prove to be a boon for employers, plan sponsors and beneficiaries.
ERIC noted that the move could allow plan sponsors to enhance disclosures to include interactive features that would help participants better understand the materials. Employee comprehension of benefits has been a longstanding challenge for employers. Recent surveys show many employees don't understand their benefits as well as they say, which may point to communications breakdowns.
Technology is already changing the face of many HR functions and processes. If the government identifies ways in which modernization could be implemented efficiently to help in the benefits arena, it could be a boon for employers. However, companies can't lose sight of the fact that many employees still prefer a human touch when dealing with benefits. Some employers are turning away from gadgets and apps towards human interactions by doing things such as creating employee committees to communicate benefits information to the broader workforce.