In Plain English®

Human Resource Handbook


Employee Handbook Policies and Procedures

 Human resource policy is the fabric governing a business' relationship with its employees. Your human resource policy manual contains your company's unique description of how your company is run, the procedures for daily operations, and interactions of your employees with your company. This manual must not make promises your company can't keep, but it should reflect your company's values and business. In it you forge a personal relationship with your employees.

Many companies choose to link their employee benefit descriptions with their personnel policies and procedures. Others choose to present personnel policies and procedures separately from summary plan descriptions and use only short highlights of each benefit in their manual.

Either way, In Plain English can prepare your manual so it accurately reflects your business relationship with your employees and can provide the background of your corporate culture which you need to present. Let us show you how your personnel policies and procedures can be a vital part of your human resources strategy.

In Plain English®

Summary Plan Descriptions

(Employee Benefit Booklets)

Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) are employee benefit descriptions required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). These Summary Plan Descriptions must describe an employee's rights and obligations under his or her benefit plan in plain English, and in a fair and unbiased manner. Labor Department regulations dictate when the Summary Plan Description must be distributed, exactly what information must be contained in the Summary Plan Description, how the text should be designed, and the penalties for not complying with the regulations. Just complying with these Summary Plan Description regulations will meet ERISA requirements for disclosure. But, disclosure does not mean employees will readily understand their benefits, or how to use them more effectively or efficiently — to do that, is communication.

Turning disclosure into communication requires careful analysis of:

The benefit plan documents

How benefits are administered

Who will read the information

The Summary Plan Description may be read by many different audiences, each having a specific purpose in mind. These audiences include not only employees and their families, but human resource and benefit administrators, benefit providers, claims adjusters, lawyers, judges, juries, and many others. Benefit information must be described sufficiently to be understood by each group in the same way. In addition, the Summary Plan Description must be equally clear to employees of different cultures and levels of education, as well as those of different ages, lifestyles, and life stages.

What is said in the SPD must take into consideration many factors besides legal requirements:

How employees think about their benefits

Employee logic and reading comprehension levels

Difficult to understand benefit provisions

Sensitive administrative and labor issues

The purpose and strategic goals of the company's employee benefit philosophy

At In Plain English®, we believe that the summary plan description should be a clear, concise, correct, and jargon-free guide for employees to learn about their benefits, as well as for the plan administrator to use to pay claims for benefits.

Employees read about their benefits when they need them and often when they are under stress. They need to have a successful first use of the SPD, or they may never refer to it again. Typical insurance company-provided employee certificates, evidences of coverage, or "off the shelf" SPDs do not fully meet employee needs for adequate and worthwhile benefit communication.

In Plain English® custom prepares Summary Plan Descriptions specifically for each client's benefits, objectives, and requirements.

In Plain English® is a full service, employee benefit and human resources communication firm. Since 1977, In Plain English® has been helping our clients meet government requirements and "turn disclosure into communication." In Plain English®  specializes in determining the precise audience(s) for specific communications, getting into the audience's shoes, and writing and producing summary plan descriptions and other benefit communications employees can logically and clearly understand and use .

In Plain English® believes that it is important to your project's ultimate success that you be comfortable with our editorial services. Consequently In Plain English® will prepare your Benefits Communication on a fixed fee basis. This approach encourages client participation and questions. In Plain English® works with you to sharpen the message and text until it is readily usable by your employees. In Plain English® makes all the changes you and your plan's legal counsel and other advisors require to bring the Summary Plan Description into full compliance with your plan document at no additional cost . In Plain English® documents each paragraph of our first draft so you can see what we used as the basis for our interpretation of your plan. In Plain English® guarantees client satisfaction with our editorial product or we will rewrite it at no additional cost. We meet our deadlines!!

In addition to writing summary plan descriptions, In Plain English® can design and produce the finished product. This would include developing the document's page layout and packaging in order to enhance the information's readability and usefulness. In Plain English® can also print and produce the final copies for distribution, while being ever mindful of your benefit communication budget.

In Plain English® also prepares print and electronic highlights brochures, flex-benefit communications, orientation programs, employee handbooks, training materials, audio-visual presentations, and newsletters.


For more information contact us by:
e-mail: - or - 1- 800- 274-9645

~updated January, 2001~




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