Over the last few years, employee wellness programs have been a common topic of conversation in all size organizations and at multiple levels. Employers have a lot of questions when creating or modifying plans. What follows might help answer some of those questions.
What is an employee wellness program?
An employee wellness program is intended to improve and promote health and fitness. Employee wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes, and the scale of wellness programs varies significantly. Programs can include activities such as company-sponsored exercise programs, health fairs that include biometric screenings and/or flu shots and immunizations, tobacco-cessation programs, company gyms or workout rooms, employee assistance plans, company-sponsored sports teams, or even healthy choices for snacks and beverages.
Why should my company consider a wellness program?
Common reasons organizations choose to implement wellness programs are to reduce health care costs, improve productivity, and decrease absenteeism. Yet there are additional benefits, not always considered by companies, that include building employee morale and loyalty to the company, improving employee relations, reducing stress, and decreasing the rate of injury. All of these factors help contribute to the bottom line of a company while helping people feel good and encouraging them to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What incentives can employers offer to employees?
Employees are more likely to participate in wellness programs if there is an incentive offered. We all occasionally need that little extra push to make big changes. Employers are able to offer employees a wide range of incentives for participation that include things like healthcare premium discounts, gym memberships, cash rewards, gift certificates, reserved parking spaces, and vacation days or flextime. Finding what motivates your employees and what fits into the budget can sometimes be one challenge to setting up a successful plan.
Do I need to be concerned about compliance when setting up a plan?
When considering setting up a new wellness program, or modifying current programs, remember that there are compliance guidelines that should be taken into account, such as the EEOC’s Final Rule on Employer Wellness Programs in regards to the ADA as well as the EEOC’s Final Rule on Employer Wellness Programs in regards to GINA. Healthcare reform also has several provisions associated with wellness programs that should be reviewed, such as HIPAA and Minimum Value and Affordability. Other laws that should also be considered are Tax, COBRA, and ERISA.
How can I help ensure the success of our employee wellness program?
For a program to be successful it is important to have buy-in and support from all levels of management. They should be informed and involved from the beginning of the process. It is also important to have a committed leader of the program but also form a committee that can deliver fresh new ideas, solicit feedback from the employees, and help champion the program. Work with outside resources like insurance carriers, benefit brokers, and employee assistance plan providers to provide added value that you may not know are available. Have some fun with it, and celebrate the successes!