Required Notices Best Practices: From Headache to “Ah Ha”!

Penalties for non-compliance can add up quickly.

Just as bad—there’s the risk of alienating employees who don’t get the information they need when they get it.


Department of Labor (DOL) penalty of $110 per day per participant when an SPD, SMM, SAR or plan document isn’t provided within 30 days of request, or for failure to provide required COBRA notices. (And, the DOL will also penalize plan sponsors $161 per day – up to $1,613 per request—if it does not receive requested documents within 30 days.)


CHIPRA civil penalties of $120 per day (each employee is a separate violation), plus potential ERISA penalty of $110 day, subject to certain caps.


Court assessed fines, back benefits and legal fees (assessments have ranged from under $20,000 to millions of dollars).

With all the focus on Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBCs) it can be easy to lose sight of the dozens of other required notices and communications employers must contend with.

Some are triggered by specific events—such as a marriage or the birth of a child—while some must be sent automatically each year. And, of course, the distribution deadlines vary tremendously.

How Can You Help?

Compliance is an ongoing challenge for employers, and if you’re dealing with a small HR department (who might be handling HR and benefits as just part of their job), it can be overwhelming. Here’s how you can help your client.

Assess the Current State

Help your clients determine just what they have and when it was last issued or updated. Identify any gaps—either documents that have been overlooked or missed deadlines—and what caused the issue.

Look Ahead

Identify which documents need to be updated and distributed—and by when. Help create a plan so you can stay current going forward. And don’t forget to discuss upcoming regulations and their potential impact.

Bring in Support

Compliance may not be your “thing,” either—but there are many companies out there who can support you and your clients. You’ll want to partner with an organization that understands ERISA and ACA compliance requirements, has experience in creating required notices on a timely basis, and who understands that these “required” notices can also serve as educational and communications tools to help employees better understand—and value—their benefits.

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Summary of Major Notice Requirements

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