President Joe Biden's administration plans to unveil several high-profile rules affecting benefit plans regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act before year-end, while Congress is negotiating differences between the House and Senate on a broad retirement policy omnibus bill.
Here, Law360 takes a look at four important legislative and regulatory policy developments affecting employee benefits that experts are watching for in the second half of 2022.
Congress hopes to send Biden a bipartisan retirement policy bill by the end of the year, but key differences between the House and Senate versions remain, including the issue of whether the overhaul will require employers to auto-enroll more workers in 401(k) plans.
The House included such a provision in its version that passed 414-5 in March. The bill, H.R. 2954, was heralded by House leaders as a major expansion of 401(k) access that builds on a project started in 2019 with the passage of the original Secure Act, hence the nickname Secure 2.0.
But the Senate's version doesn't go as far, and the difference is emerging as a key disparity between the two legislative packages as negotiations proceed.
Senate lawmakers plan to combine two pieces of legislation: a retirement package advanced by the Finance Committee on June 22 and another measure, S. 4353, which was approved June 14 by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Both bills advanced out of committee unanimously, in a sign of strong bipartisan support in the chamber.
If that combined package passes the Senate as expected, lawmakers must work out differences with the House version before anything can reach the president's desk. Already, leaders in Congress are eyeing passage of the legislation in December as part of a year-end tax or budget bill.
"I expect there would be some kind of auto-enrollment provision," said Sharon Lippett, a member of Epstein Becker Green's benefits and executive compensation practice, given a focus in the House bill on "increasing participation in retirement plans and increasing retirement savings."
Lippett said she's also watching for how the final package handles proposed increases to the limits on retirement plan catch-up contributions.