Many employers are aware of their obligations to provide new employees with certain notices, but often times even the seemingly straight-forward HR tasks become convoluted or overlooked. When it comes to COBRA compliance, the General Notice, which is also commonly referred to as the Initial Rights Notice, plays an important role in protecting both employers, and employees rights to continuation.
However, this simple yet informational notice is often mishandled, or completely forgotten which can lead to costly lawsuits, hefty fines, and overall stress for an HR team. In this article we look at a few simple ways CobraHelp can ensure that an adequate Initial Rights Notice is provided to employees and common pitfalls to avoid.
What's in a Notice?
In a nutshell, the General Notice is a mandatory COBRA notice that must be provided to all employees within 90 days of enrollment into group health benefits. This notice details the employee's continuation coverage rights under COBRA, should the employee ever experience a qualifying event.
The General Notice must be sent to the employee as well as any covered dependents. It advises the employee and covered dependents of certain rights they may have if certain scenarios were to arise. For example, if the employee were to pass away, then covered surviving dependents would have a right to continue group health benefits under COBRA for up to 36 months. There are many examples such as this provided throughout an adequate General Notice. The U.S. DOL EBSA division provides a model notice as well that employers may use as a baseline for notifying eligible employees of their rights under COBRA compliance. However, it is always recommended that any employer provided notice be reviewed by expert legal counsel.
Avoid Tricky Notification Pitfalls.
Employers often tell us that they simply hand the notice to employees as part of the orientation packet, or as part of a benefits information kit when a new employee goes on benefits.
While this approach is not expressly prohibited by the COBRA statute or Internal Revenue Code, it is recommended that employers take a more detailed and well documented approach for providing the General Notices for for several reasons:
Strategy for Success...
Employers should work on strategies that allow both employees and covered spouses to receive timely Initial Rights Notices in-house or via outsourcing to an Expert COBRA provider to ensure COBRA compliance.
The information in this website is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from CobraHelp. or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.