The biggest SECURE Act Change IMHO

The biggest change under SECURE Act is the treatment of long-time, part-time employees under your 401(k) plan. Going forward, it will change how you see the 401(k) plan and how you will have to start measuring if you have long term, part-time employees.

Under current law, your 401(k) plan can exclude part-time employees from participation if these employees don’t complete 1,000 hours of service in a year. The SECURE Act will require you to extend participation to any part-time employee who has worked at least 500 hours in each of the immediately preceding three consecutive 12‑month periods (for salary deferral purposes only). That means you won’t have to provide matching or other employer contributions to these part-time employees. These changes are effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2020, but you won’t have to consider hours of service before 2021 as part of this eligibility calculations.

That means that the change will take a couple of years before these part-time employees can be considered eligible. Before that time, your 401(k) plan will have to be amended to incorporate these new eligibility rules and you will need to update your payroll and/or human resources information systems to identify and track this new class of part-time employees for eligibility purposes.

I can’t predict sporting events or the lottery, but I can tell you that this change will cause a lot of plan sponsors to make mistakes by failing to count hours and cover these part-time employees. So I think you need to start counting hours and keeping tabs who will be eligible.

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