Effective Benefit Plan Communication
The way that construction companies and/or unions communicate benefits information has a tremendous impact on how well the programs are understood, utilized and perceived by employees.
Managers and supervisors can be effective in sharing important benefits information with employees. Since they are most likely to know what their employees understand, they might be better able to present benefits information. As an employee’s main point of contact, managers and supervisors also tend to be more approachable with questions. Utilizing this group to communicate benefits information should be done with caution and help from the following tips.
Verbal Communication Problems
Communicating inaccurate information to employees is always a major concern. Keep in mind that misinformation not only causes an employee relation problem, but has the possibility of causing litigation as well. Consider these tips to avoid problems:
- Remind those who may be asked questions regarding benefits to review their plan documents carefully. They should refer to the HR department or union representative any questions they’re unsure how to address.
- Whether formal or informal, do not make promises regarding any aspect of the benefits plan that the company will not be able to keep.
- State in the plan documents that plan amendments are to be made only in writing and approved by the corporate representative or plan administrator, if applicable.
Written Communication Cautions
Informal written promises can still prevail in court. As a result, make sure even informal written communications about the plan is consistent with the official documents before distributing.
Employees often rely on summary plan descriptions to determine their rights under a specific plan. In the event of an issue due to discrepancies between plan documents and the summary plan document, the summary plan document can hold up in court. Because of this, it’s crucial to make sure that the summary plan document is correct, current, clear and in agreement with the plan documents, handbooks and all other benefits information.
As a safety measure, be sure that the summary plan description, handbooks and other benefits communications state clearly that the plan document has absolute authority. This information should appear in a separate paragraph in a prominent position. Consider using larger, italic or boldfaced type, or by using a distinct border to make the information readily apparent.
- Keep a copy of each communication or disclosure sent to employees, however informal.
- Grant discretion to fiduciaries in the plan document.
- Make sure all documents relating to the plan do not include any misleading information before distributing. Request additional information from the plan administrator regarding information that you believe may be misleading.
- Reserve the right to amend the plan at any time for any reason.
Challenge Ahead: Communicating Benefits to Multi-Generational Workers
A total of 290,000 construction jobs were added in 2014, the best annual figure since 2005. And, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the construction industry is projected to add 1.6 million new jobs over the 2012-22 decade. As younger professionals enter the industry and learn underneath seasoned professionals – communicating benefits among these multi-generational workgroups will be a challenge.
For tips and tricks on how to navigate this challenge, check out our Assurance University Replay: Communicating Benefits to a Multi-generational Workgroup.
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