ERISA is an important law that protects employees concerning their retirement and health benefits.
There are minimum standards for retirement and healthcare plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The legislation also protects individuals who use these plans. Financial advisors can help employees manage their retirement plans.
Workers' retirement income was guaranteed by ERISA in 1974. Voluntary retirement and healthcare plans are protected by regulations set by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The law protects workers who participate in retirement and health insurance plans through their employers. ERISA protects employees if they work for a private company that offers health or retirement plans.
As part of the Department of Labor (DOL), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) enforces ERISA.
ERISA offers many protections to employees, primarily in health insurance and retirement plans.
Employees participating in plans must be provided with information about funding and features of their plans, for example. It also defines how companies may regulate participation in the plan, including how long they require employees to work before joining. Additionally, it explains whether or not an employee's spouse can receive part of her pension if she dies.
ERISA also requires that people in charge of managing the plan's assets are fiduciaries for participants. The fiduciaries must act in the best interest of investors according to the law. Financial responsibility for the plan's losses could be imposed if they fail to do so.
Under ERISA, participants can sue for breach of fiduciary duty and receive their benefits. A plan's benefits are also protected if it is terminated.
Under ERISA, the company can establish rules governing defined benefit and contribution pension plans (such as a 401(k)). ERISA allows companies to limit who can participate in retirement plans only within specific parameters.
Employers usually require participants to be 21 or older. A year of service is also required. However, companies cannot discriminate based on other factors like age. As an example, a company cannot prevent older employees from joining.
A company can also adjust employees' retirement benefits based on the law. Defining benefit plans allows the company to change its future earnings but can't reduce one-time payments. They can reduce their earned benefits for coming months from $100 a month to $50 a month, but the company cannot take away their accrued benefits.
Retirement plans also have rules regarding withdrawals. The retirement plan allows employees to withdraw any money right away. However, there may be some restrictions on withdrawing the money. Employee contributions to retirement plans are different, however.
Defining benefit plans offer employers two options for vesting employer-funded pension payments. Upon reaching five years of service, employees become fully vested.
Gradually vesting plans are also an option. After three years, employees become 20 percent vested, 40 percent after four years, 60 percent after five years, 80 percent after six years, and 100 percent after seven years. Employers who contribute to employee 401(k)s or other defined contribution plans can also take advantage of similar vesting schedules.
In 1985, the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was passed into law. As a result of this provision, employees can extend their health insurance coverage if their employment ends. A processing fee, as well as 100 percent of the premium, will be billed to them.
The second addition is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.) Passed in 1996, this revision to ERISA extended new protections to employees with employer-provided health insurance. HIPAA limits pre-existing condition exclusions. Additionally, it protects employees and dependents from discrimination based on their health status. After COBRA eligibility expires, employees can purchase health insurance.
ERISA governs how companies administer health and retirement plans offered to their employees. EBSA enforces the law on behalf of the Department of Labor. Under ERISA, employees can file complaints with a Department of Labor office. It is also possible to get help from ERISA lawyers.