01 February 2013

Updating Your SPDs? Ask Yourself These Questions.

By Elizabeth Borton
After you’ve cleaned up all the loose ends from annual enrollment, it’s usually time to take a look at your summary plan descriptions (SPDs). Or, as some lovingly call them: seriously painful documents.

Aside from some limit increases/decreases (401(k), HSA, FSA) and changes in prescription contraceptive coverage due to PPACA, there weren’t a lot of big legislative changes for 2013. However, if you made major changes to your plan design, you should update your documents to keep them current.

As you review your summary plan documents, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you place the “need to know” information higher than the “nice to know” information?
  • Is the content well organized and consistent from section to section?
  • Is your SPD written in the second person (“you” versus “employee”)?
  • Do the terms you’re using in your SPDs match the terms in the Summary of Benefits and Coverage documents you recently distributed? Although it’s not an official requirement, a representative from the Department of Labor to whom I spoke suggested it’s a good idea. See our post on the subject last year.
  • Do your sentences have 14 words or less?
  • Is the text formatted in two columns?
  • Do you use bold-face subheads to make the text easy to scan?
  • If you post your SPDs as electronic files, are they bookmarked so employees can quickly go to the section they want?

These are just a few of the tips we’ve included in our free paper: “SPDs…Taking Yours from Legalese to Read with Ease.” Check it out. And keep it handy, because you’ll definitely be updating your SPDs for 2014.