SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey found that 64% of employers provide wellness information and resources. With health care costs continuously increasing, employers and employees strive to save money. A wellness program is an attractive solution as it has the potential to reduce health care costs and boost workplace satisfaction.
There are many kinds of wellness benefits. Some guide employees through preventable and chronic health conditions, whereas others are incentive programs designed to encourage employees to complete wellness activities. Employers should assess employees’ needs to create a customized and effective wellness program. Common wellness activities include:
- Nutrition education
- Exercise programs and fitness memberships
- Health risk assessments
- Vaccine clinics
- Stress reduction programs like employee assistance programs (EAPs)
- Smoking reduction programs
Benefits of a Wellness Program
A successful wellness program helps employees develop positive behaviors by promoting nutritious eating and exercise. By consistently engaging in healthy behaviors, the risk of developing a heart attack, elevated blood glucose, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure decreases. A healthy employee population keeps costs down.
Poor health is one of the top reasons why employees call out of work or cannot focus, resulting in low productivity. With a wellness program in place educating and encouraging employees to be healthier, employers can see a more present and high-performing workforce. Additionally, retention elevates after implementing a wellness program. The program shows that the employer cares for the well-being of their employees, making them more attractive than organizations that do not offer similar programs.
Legal Issues for a Wellness Program
When creating and implementing a wellness program, employers need to comply with several federal laws.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): Under these laws, employers cannot collect employee health and genetic information unless an employee volunteers it for a wellness program. The wellness program must be voluntary, meaning employees cannot be penalized for not participating.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA): HIPAA protects employees against discrimination due to health-status factors. Under the law, there are two categories of wellness programs: participatory and health-contingent.
Participants in a health-contingent wellness program must meet health-related requirements to obtain a reward. These plans must follow five nondiscrimination standards to be compliant.
- At the minimum, participants must be given the chance to qualify for rewards once per year.
- The total reward must not exceed 30% of the cost of health coverage and 50% for tobacco reduction-related programs.
- The wellness program must promote preventative health.
- The reward must be universally available, and the program must provide an alternative standard for participants.
- Participants must receive notice of alternative availability.
Participatory wellness programs are typically compliant with HIPAA if participation is offered equally and regardless of an individual’s health status. These programs do not require participants to meet specific health standards to obtain rewards, if any rewards are offered. Unlike health-contingent programs, participatory programs have no limit on rewards or financial incentives. For more detailed information on compliant wellness programs, click here.
Wellness programs appeal to employers and employees alike, especially those looking to reduce healthcare costs and improve workplace satisfaction. If you have any questions, please reach out to your dedicated Creative Benefits, Inc. team member.