401(k) Resource Guide - Plan Participants - Summary Plan Description


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires plan administrators to give to participants and beneficiaries a Summary Plan Description (SPD) describing their rights, benefits, and responsibilities under the plan in understandable language. The SPD includes such information as:

  • Name and type of plan
  • Plan’s requirements regarding eligibility
  • Description of benefits and when participants have a right to those benefits
  • Statement that the plan is maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, if applicable
  • Statement about whether the plan is covered by termination insurance from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
  • Source of contributions to the plan and the methods used to calculate the amount of contributions
  • Provisions governing termination of the plan
  • Procedures regarding claims for benefits and remedies for disputing denied claims
  • Statement of rights available to plan participants under ERISA.

New employees must receive a copy of their plan sponsor’s latest Summary Plan Description within 90 days after becoming covered by the plan. Plan sponsors are not required to file the Summary Plan Description with the Department of Labor (DOL), although they are required to provide it to DOL upon request.

For more information on the SPD and its importance, visit the Department of Labor web site.

In addition to the Summary Plan Description, plan participants are entitled to receive a Summary of Material Modifications when there is a material modification in the terms of the plan or any change to the information in the Summary Plan Description. The Summary of Material Modifications must be written in a manner that the average participant can understand. The material must be furnished within 210 days after the close of the plan year in which the modification was made.