Trustees of multiemployer benefit plans take on significant fiduciary responsibilities when they agree to be trustees. Many of them have not had experience or education that prepares them for this important role. Government guidance allows a benefit plan to spend some of its precious assets on education for trustees who serve as fiduciaries for these plans. When, where, how and for whom should this education be offered? That’s where a written policy comes in.
A policy can provide clear direction in a prudent and fair manner about who should get education, how often education is needed and what expenses are reasonable. Written policies provide legal and ethical protection for the board of trustees.
What exactly should be included in such a policy? Where do you begin? The good news is that if you’re a member of the Foundation, you don’t have to start from scratch. The Foundation has two member resources that can help you get started: survey data and sample documents.
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In a recent survey on trustee selection and orientation, the Foundation gathered data on the prevalence and features of trustee education policies. About two-thirds of funds (64.8%) have educational policies, and an additional 7.4% are considering adopting policies. As for the number of meetings, classes or conferences a trustee can attend per year, responses ranged from one to seven per year, with the most common response being two per year. Three in ten funds (30.9%) rotate educational travel opportunities among trustees. For more data, check out Section V in the full survey report.
The Foundation also offers a variety of sample documents shared by members in a special Sample Documents section of the website. Simply choose your type of plan and then the type of document you’re looking for. In the multiemployer section of the sample documents, there’s a specific category for trustee education and expense reimbursement. These samples offer ideas about what could be included in your trustee education policy. Just a reminder, policies are rarely “one size fits all,” so be sure to have an attorney or consultant review and approve your policies.
Do you have a written trustee education policy? Please consider allowing us to share it with other Foundation members. We will happily accept other types of sample policies and documents, too. E-mail your policy to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your fellow members will be grateful.