Legal Notices: How to Be Compliant While Giving Your Employees a Guide They’ll Want to Read


A benefit guide is an excellent tool for communicating important benefits-related information to employees. Since benefit guides are given to employees once a year, it’s tempting to include every legal notice your employees may need. While this may lead to proper employee notification, it may also create a guide that is challenging to read, difficult to understand, and disregarded by employees.

Cut Down on Legalese to Improve Comprehension

Use everyday language to help your employees understand complex topics. Even the federal government has an official guideline for using common language, the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The guidelines are useful for communicating benefits information, with the goal to help employees:

  • Find the information they need
  • Understand the information they read
  • Use the information they have

Keep your employees’ attention throughout the benefit guide with content that speaks their language. Include benefit plan descriptions that use everyday language. Remove unnecessary words and legal jargon by referring employees to their SBCs or benefit summaries for additional plan information.

Take Legal Notices Out of Your Benefit Guide

Informing employees of their legal rights is extremely important. Incorporating legal notices into the benefit guide is not the only way to communicate these rights to employees.

Distribute Notices Electronically

Many notices can be sent to employees electronically. Under Title I of ERISA, some disclosures may be provided to employees through the company’s intranet or direct to employee emails. These documents include:

  • SPDs
  • SMMs
  • SARs
  • COBRA Notifications
  • QMCSO Notices
  • HIPAA Certificates of Creditable Coverage

The following documents may also qualify for electronic distribution if the requirements stated under Electronic Disclosure Safe Harbor are met. Safe Harbor, the Department of Labor’s regulations for complying with legal requirements, indicates that plan information may be sent electronically if additional requirements are met. These documents include:

  • SBCs
  • Exchange Notice
  • CHIP Notice
  • HIPAA Special Enrollment Notice
  • WHCRA Notice

Distribution requirements are more difficult to meet when electronically sending documents to employees who do not have work-related access to the employer’s electronic delivery system. When in doubt, check requirements on the DOL’s website.

Distribute Notices in Person or Via Mail

Another option to inform employees of their rights without cluttering the benefit guide is to provide employees with a printed document incorporating all legal disclosures. There is no need to print these legal notices in color, on high-quality, glossy paper. Keep print and shipping costs down by printing notices in black and white on lower-cost paper stock. Deliver to employees in person or send to employee homes.

At Communication Partners, our goal is to help employees make well-informed benefit decisions. We do this by providing custom benefit guides with relevant information, concise language, and engaging design. Your message is the core focus of your benefit communications when legal language and notices are kept to a minimum.

Contact the team at Communication Partners today to find out how we can help you craft a custom message your employees actually want to read.

This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Please contact your legal advisor for more information.

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