(a) General disclosure requirements. The administrator of an employee benefit plan covered by Title I of the Act must disclose certain material, including reports, statements, notices, and other documents, to participants, beneficiaries and other specified individuals. Disclosure under Title I of the Act generally takes three forms. First, the plan administrator must, by direct operation of law, furnish certain material to all participants covered under the plan and beneficiaries receiving benefits under the plan (other than beneficiaries under a welfare plan) at stated times or if certain events occur. Second, the plan administrator must furnish certain material to individual participants and beneficiaries upon their request. Third, the plan administrator must make certain material available to participants and beneficiaries for inspection at reasonable times and places.
(b) Fulfilling the disclosure obligation.(1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, where certain material, including reports, statements, notices and other documents, is required under Title I of the Act, or regulations issued thereunder, to be furnished either by direct operation of law or on individual request, the plan administrator shall use measures reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt of the material by plan participants, beneficiaries and other specified individuals. Material which is required to be furnished to all participants covered under the plan and beneficiaries receiving benefits under the plan (other than beneficiaries under a welfare plan) must be sent by a method or methods of delivery likely to result in full distribution. For example, in-hand delivery to an employee at his or her worksite is acceptable. However, in no case is it acceptable merely to place copies of the material in a location frequented by participants. It is also acceptable to furnish such material as a special insert in a periodical distributed to employees such as a union newspaper or a company publication if the distribution list for the periodical is comprehensive and up-to-date and a prominent notice on the front page of the periodical advises readers that the issue contains an insert with important information about rights under the plan and the Act which should be read and retained for future reference. If some participants and beneficiaries are not on the mailing list, a periodical must be used in conjunction with other methods of distribution such that the methods taken together are reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt. Material distributed through the mail may be sent by first, second, or third-class mail. However, distribution by second or third-class mail is acceptable only if return and forwarding postage is guaranteed and address correction is requested. Any material sent by second or third-class mail which is returned with an address correction shall be sent again by first-class mail or personally delivered to the participant at his or her worksite.
(2) For purposes of section 104(b)(4) of the Act, materials furnished upon written request shall be mailed to an address provided by the requesting participant or beneficiary or personally delivered to the participant or beneficiary.
(3) For purposes of section 104(b)(2) of the Act, where certain documents are required to be made available for examination by participants and beneficiaries in the principal office of the plan administrator and in such other places as may be necessary to make available all pertinent information to all participants and beneficiaries, disclosure shall be made pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph. Such documents must be current, readily accessible, and clearly identified, and copies must be available in sufficient number to accommodate the expected volume of inquiries. Plan administrators shall make copies of the latest annual report, and the bargaining agreement, trust agreement, contract, or other instruments under which the plan is established or operated available at all times in their principal offices. They are not required to maintain these plan documents at all times at each employer establishment or union hall or office as described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i), (ii), and (iii) of this section, but the documents must be made available at any such location within ten calendar days following the day on which a request for disclosure at that location is made. Plan administrators shall make plan documents available at the appropriate employer establishment or union meeting hall or office within the required ten day period when a request is made directly to the plan administrator or through a procedure establishing reasonable rules governing the making of requests for examination of plan documents. If a plan administrator prescribes such a procedure and communicates it to plan participants and beneficiaries, a plan administrator will not be required to comply with a request made in a manner which does not conform to the established procedure. In order to comply with the requirements of this section, a procedure for making requests to examine plan documents must permit requests to be made in a reasonably convenient manner both directly to the plan administrator and at each employer establishment, or union meeting hall or office where documents must be made available in accordance with this paragraph. If no such reasonable procedure is established, a good faith effort by a participant or beneficiary to request examination of plan documents will be deemed a request to the plan administrator for purposes of this paragraph.
(i) In the case of a plan not maintained according to a collective bargaining agreement, including a plan maintained by a single employer with more than one establishment, a multiple employer plan, and a plan maintained by a controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of section 1563(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (the Code)), determined without regard to section 1563(a)(4) and (e)(3)(C) of the Code), documents shall be made available for examination in the principal office of the employer and at each employer establishment in which at least 50 participants covered under a plan are customarily working. “Establishment” means a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed. Where employees are engaged in activities which are physically dispersed, such as agriculture, construction, transportation and communications, the “establishment” shall be the place to which employees report each day. When employees do not usually work at, or report to, a single establishment—for example, traveling salesmen, technicians, and engineers—the establishment shall be the location from which the employees customarily carry out their activities—for example the field office of an engineering firm servicing at least 50 participants covered under the plan.
(ii) In the case of a plan maintained solely by an employee organization, the plan administrator shall take measures to ensure that documents are available for examination at the meeting hall or office of each union local in which there are at least 50 participants covered under the plan. Such measures shall include distributing copies of the documents to each union local in which there are at least 50 participants covered under the plan.
(iii) In the case of a plan maintained according to a collective bargaining agreement, including a collectively bargained single employer plan with more than one establishment, a collectively bargained multiple employer plan, and a multiemployer plan which meets the definition of section 3(37) of the Act, § 2510.3-37 of this chapter, and section 414(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and 26 CFR 1.414(f) ( 40 FR 43034 ), documents shall be made available for examination in the principal office of the employee organization and at each employer establishment in which at least 50 participants covered under the plan are customarily working. In employment situations where employees do not usually work at, or report to, a single establishment, the plan administrator shall take measures to ensure that plan documents are available for examination at the meeting hall or office of each union local in which there are at least 50 participants covered under the plan.
(c) Disclosure through electronic media.(1) Except as otherwise provided by applicable law, rule or regulation, the administrator of an employee benefit plan furnishing documents through electronic media is deemed to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section with respect to an individual described in paragraph (c)(2) if:
(i) The administrator takes appropriate and necessary measures reasonably calculated to ensure that the system for furnishing documents—
(A) Results in actual receipt of transmitted information (e.g., using return-receipt or notice of undelivered electronic mail features, conducting periodic reviews or surveys to confirm receipt of the transmitted information); and
(B) Protects the confidentiality of personal information relating to the individual's accounts and benefits (e.g., incorporating into the system measures designed to preclude unauthorized receipt of or access to such information by individuals other than the individual for whom the information is intended);
(ii) The electronically delivered documents are prepared and furnished in a manner that is consistent with the style, format and content requirements applicable to the particular document;
(iii) Notice is provided to each participant, beneficiary or other individual, in electronic or non-electronic form, at the time a document is furnished electronically, that apprises the individual of the significance of the document when it is not otherwise reasonably evident as transmitted (e.g., the attached document describes changes in the benefits provided by your plan) and of the right to request and obtain a paper version of such document; and
(iv) Upon request, the participant, beneficiary or other individual is furnished a paper version of the electronically furnished documents.
(2) Paragraph (c)(1) shall only apply with respect to the following individuals:
(i) A participant who—
(A) Has the ability to effectively access documents furnished in electronic form at any location where the participant is reasonably expected to perform his or her duties as an employee; and
(B) With respect to whom access to the employer's or plan sponsor's electronic information system is an integral part of those duties; or
(ii) A participant, beneficiary or any other person entitled to documents under Title I of the Act or regulations issued thereunder (including, but not limited to, an “alternate payee” within the meaning of section 206(d)(3) of the Act and a “qualified beneficiary” within the meaning of section 607(3) of the Act) who—
(A) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) (B) of this section, has affirmatively consented, in electronic or non-electronic form, to receiving documents through electronic media and has not withdrawn such consent;
(B) In the case of documents to be furnished through the Internet or other electronic communication network, has affirmatively consented or confirmed consent electronically, in a manner that reasonably demonstrates the individual's ability to access information in the electronic form that will be used to provide the information that is the subject of the consent, and has provided an address for the receipt of electronically furnished documents;
(C) Prior to consenting, is provided, in electronic or non-electronic form, a clear and conspicuous statement indicating:
(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; and
(D) Following consent, if a change in hardware or software requirements needed to access or retain electronic documents creates a material risk that the individual will be unable to access or retain electronically furnished documents:
(1) Is provided with a statement of the revised hardware or software requirements for access to and retention of electronically furnished documents;
(2) Is given the right to withdraw consent without charge and without the imposition of any condition or consequence that was not disclosed at the time of the initial consent; and
(3) Again consents, in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(A) or paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, as applicable, to the receipt of documents through electronic media.
(e) Limitations. This section does not apply to disclosures required under provisions of part 2 and part 3 of the Act over which the Secretary of the Treasury has interpretative and regulatory authority pursuant to Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 1210-0039)
[42 FR 37186, July 19, 1977, as amended at 62 FR 16985, Apr. 8, 1997; 62 FR 36205, July 7, 1997; 67 FR 777, Jan. 7, 2002; 67 FR 17275, Apr. 9, 2002]
Title 29 published on 2012-07-01
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