Authors: Ashley Shaw and Tracy Morley, XpertHR Legal Editors
Employee wellness programs are typically used to prevent illness by motivating employees to adopt and maintain healthful behaviors. These programs are popular with employers looking to reduce health care costs and can result in increased employee productivity and satisfaction. There are many components to a good wellness program and an employer can pick and choose what to offer from a variety of options such as:
- Exercise classes, reduced or free gym memberships or on-site exercise equipment;
- Nutrition classes and information;
- Employee Assistance Programs;
- Substance abuse counseling;
- Smoking cessation programs; or
- General safety and health tips for work and home.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) updated the wellness rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), permitting the use of incentive-based programs, and clearing the way for employers to expand upon existing wellness programs. Even though such programs are permitted under HIPAA and the ACA, when creating a wellness program, an employer needs to consider how the program interacts with federal antidiscrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). For example, the ADA's reasonable accommodation requirements and GINA's discrimination provisions may limit the design of incentive-based wellness programs. Additionally, wellness programs that provide rewards to employees for attaining certain outcomes, while penalizing employees who do not, may have an adverse impact on certain protected classes, such as older workers, women and minorities.
Using XpertHR's various Tools and resources can help an employer successfully implement and manage legally compliant wellness programs.
- How to Implement and Manage a Wellness Program
- How to Handle Mental Health Concerns
- How to Help an Employee With a Substance Abuse Problem
- How to Create a Smoke-Free Workplace
Policies and Documents
- Employee Wellness Program Waiver Form
- Letter Suggesting the Importance of Being Vaccinated
- Signs of Employee Stress - Checklist
- Signs of Employee Depression - Checklist
Employment Law Manual
General Wellness Program Information
- Health Information and Privacy (HIPAA) > Wellness Plan Initiatives
- Health Care Benefit > Wellness Plans
- Managing Health Care Costs > Wellness and Prevention Programs
- Managing Health Care Costs > Disease Management Programs
- Employee Health > Wellness and Fitness Programs
Interplay With Other Laws
Possible Components of a Wellness Program
- Employee Health > Infectious Diseases
- Employee Benefits > Employee Assistance Programs
- Employee Health > Employee Assistance Programs
- Employee Health > Drug and Alcohol Use
- Employee Health > Smoking
Best Practice Manual
- Are all healthcare plans covered by HIPAA?
- Why must an employer tread carefully when it comes to an applicant's genetic information?
- Should an employer do anything to help overly stressed employees?
- May an employer require employees to be vaccinated?
Related Glossary Terms
- ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
- GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act)
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Wellness Program
- Work-Life Benefits