Benefits: Should we put details in the employee handbook or the Summary Plan Description? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Benefits: Should we put details in the employee handbook or the Summary Plan Description?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. Should a small business employee handbook include a safe-harbor clause under the benefits section for their 401k plan? In the past, the benefits information in the handbook has been limited because it can change so often. Instead, the handbook just points the employee to the summary plan documents. — Ann, Kentucky

A. I agree that for handbook descriptions of employee benefit plans, it is important to refer employees to the official “Summary Plan Description” for full details on how the program (in this case, a 401k) is administered. General information on who is entitled to receive a safe harbor contribution—for example, the fact that you must be 21 years old and have attained a year of service—seem relevant to the majority of employees. But details about why the employer has adopted that approach may be too much for a handbook.

Remember, employers have notice requirements to participants under such a plan. So if you determine that information is too detailed for a handbook policy, make sure you are meeting notice obligations to participants in some other manner.

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