Update Employee Handbooks To Reflect ACA, Law Firm Says

Employers should update employee handbooks to reflect changes made to comply with Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. 111-148) requirements, the law firm Bryan Cave LLP said June 2 in a blog post on its website.  

The handbooks offer employees an important source of compensation and benefits information and should be revised to reflect major policy changes, benefits experts said.

Employee handbook information should be reviewed for consistency with the ACA, plan documents and summary plan descriptions and with other corporate information, the blog said.

Appropriate changes to handbooks containing benefits-related information might include clarifying whether coverage is offered to part-time employees, the blog said.

Part time should be clearly defined if the term's use with regard to health-care plans differs from the term's use with regard to hours, wages and vacation, it said.

Employers should specify in the handbooks if look-back measurement periods are being used for part-time employees and employer waiting periods for health-care coverage, the Bryan Cave blog said.

Any benefits-related discussion should be kept to a minimum to avoid confusion and potential conflict with plan documents, it said.

Handbooks should emphasize that the benefits information they contain is only a brief summary and that detailed information is to be found in the plan documents, which are the governing documents in the event of inconsistency between them and the handbooks, the blog said. The handbooks also should indicate where copies of plan documents may be found, it said.

According to final rules (T.D. 9655) under tax code Section 4980H released Feb. 10 by the Treasury Department, starting in 2015, covered employers must offer health-insurance coverage to at least 70 percent of full-time employees to avoid penalties, and starting in 2016, covered employers must offer such coverage to 95 percent of full-time equivalent employees.