Employers often wonder how long they are required to retain certain records relating to their employee health and welfare benefit plans. For plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), these rules are detailed in ERISA §107.
To ensure compliance, employers should be aware of the requirements set forth in ERISA §107, including who is responsible for retaining records, timeframes required to keep records, which records need to be retained, and acceptable methods for retaining records.
Record Retention Responsibility
The record retention obligation falls on the plan administrator who is, or who would be, responsible for filing the health and welfare benefit plan’s annual Form 5500 filing. Generally, the plan administrator is the employer who is sponsoring the plan. Notably, plans exempted from the From 5500 reporting requirements are still required to comply with ERISA §107’s record retention rules. Furthermore, the plan administrator’s record-keeping responsibilities cannot be delegated, even when contracting with a third party for record-keeping services.
Types of Records to Retain
ERISA §107 requires maintenance of all records that document the accuracy of information that is included in, or would be included in, the plan’s Form 5500 filing. The records that a plan must retain will vary depending on numerous factors, such as the size and type of plan. Some records that might be required to be maintained include:
- Copies of filed Form 5500s
- Summary Annual Reports (SARs)
- Plan documents
- Insurance policies, booklets and certificates