Employee Wellness Programs & The Obligations Of Employers

Employers sometimes desire to implement health programs for their workers, which serve to facilitate healthy lifestyles and decrease healthcare overheads.  These employee programs are usually referred to as “participatory” or “health-contingent” wellness programs, depending on whether the worker is required to partake in a certain health arrangement.  However, employers have a plethora of requirements that they must follow in order for these programs to be legally acceptable. 

For example, when employers desire to promote and foster the health of their employees through certain “employee wellness programs,” they have to ensure that the employees’ personally identifiable and health details are kept confidential.  These regulations were prompted by the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” (HIPAA), and the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA).

Employers also have to remain up-to-date on the additions or changes to these rules and regulations.  For example, as of January 2017, employers will be required to provide a new announcement to employees before they enter into health programs.   The criteria that needs to be included is 1) an explanation of the particular data that will be taken, 2) how the data will be utilized, 3) what personnel or entities will be exposed to the employees’ information, and 4) what methods the employer will use to secure the information.  The new rule may provide employees with a greater sense of security with regard to their private information, and may help foster the implementation of suitable programs by employers.

Sufficient notification can be facilitated via a hard-copy notice in certain employment materials or online.  The “Equal Opportunity Employment Commission” (EEOC) has a sample or “model notice” online to serve as a guide for employers—the employer may design the notice to fit the specific plan the employer is offering.  Moreover, details of the employee health agenda many need to be described, such as a description of the motivation or incentives behind the program’s goals, levels of rewards for entering, and the particular conditions an employee must meet to obtain the rewards.  Any restrictions pertaining to employee eligibility or inducements must also be disclosed.  Consult an attorney to confirm that your programs are fully enforceable and are aligned with the new requirements.