January 4, 2024

You work hard to ensure every member of your team hits their open enrollment deadline. After all, missing the deadline can mean losing coverage, failing to change benefits elections and potential financial issues for your people. But for those rare occasions, here is what to do when employees miss open enrollment.

Legal Requirements

Legally, you are off the hook. The law does not require employers to do anything for employees who have missed the open enrollment deadline. In fact, the terms of your benefits plans may prohibit you from making exceptions for employees before the new plan year begins.

The only exception to these terms is if an employee qualifies for a special enrollment period (SEP) due to a qualifying life-changing events: getting married, divorced, having or adopting a child and more. It is in your best interest to create simple and comprehensive policies and procedures so that you are prepared in the event of a SEP.

If you are an applicable large employer (ALEs) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you may face additional concerns. These employers must offer affordable, essential coverage to their full-time employees or face penalties. You will not be subject to this penalty if you have offered appropriate coverage to employees, regardless of whether they enrolled in coverage.

To avoid any penalties, document that coverage has been offered. Require employees to sign an acknowledgement of benefits form or a waiver of coverage form.

Supporting Employees

Unfortunately, if an employee misses the deadline, there is not much more you can do for them if they do not qualify for an SEP.  The primary way you can help them is by ensuring they have everything they need to avoid missing the deadline in the future. Here are a few strategies to consider:

Opportunities for Education

Employees need a thorough understanding of their benefits. Education can (and should be) provided in a variety of forms, such as flyers, posters, emails and videos. Think about where your team is most likely to receive and absorb information. If your broker has full-service marketing capabilities, they may be able to help you create some of these materials.

You can also engage your team with methods that are more hands-on such one-on-one appointments, workshops, webinars and more. The goal is to provide as many avenues as possible for your team members to ask questions and build confidence as they approach open enrollment.

Asking for Feedback

Meet employees where they are at. Each of them has their own preferences for receiving information — so ask them what it is:

  • How would you prefer to receive information on open enrollment?
  • Do you have any outstanding questions about open enrollment?
  • Do you need any additional support?

Surveying your employees will help you clarify their needs and demonstrate your commitment to supporting and engaging them through the process — potentially reducing the number of employees that miss open enrollment.


Remember, these strategies are not legal requirements, but they can help mitigate risk. Support and educate your employees, and ensure you have covered your bases on ACA regulations to protect your business if an employee misses the open enrollment deadline.


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