There’s good news and there’s bad news regarding wellness programs. The good news: Workers do seem to have a keen interest in wellness. The bad: What they want could put employers in the feds’ crosshairs.
These are some of the key findings from a recent study by HealthMine.
The study found that three-quarters of employees would engage more fully in a wellness plan that included incentive levels and rewards for achieving goals such as maintaining ideal weight, sticking to a drug regimen that addresses chronic diseases and not smoking.
Specifically, employees said that:
- Colleagues who are in a healthy weight range should be rewarded with a discount on their health insurance (67%)
- Colleagues who smoke tobacco should pay more for their health care (63%), and
- Colleagues who adhere to medication for chronic disease should be rewarded for it (52%).
The study also found that 71% of employees would like more health-management guidance from their employers.
Here’s the problem: The EEOC might well view these “goal-based incentives” as discriminating against particular groups of workers. (And that’s made a lot of employers skittish about using those tough benchmarks — in fact, less than a quarter of company wellness programs include incentives tied to measurable results, according to a recent Mercer study.
Of course, employers have every reason to be skeptical about relying too heavily on these results-based wellness incentives.
After all, as HR Benefits Alert has covered extensively, the EEOC has filed a number of high-profile lawsuits against employers because of their wellness programs.
And these lawsuits have drawn widespread criticism from both employers and benefit industry insiders because, even though the EEOC won’t spell out what types of wellness initiatives will get firms in trouble, it has no problem coming after firms when it sees something it doesn’t like.
So until we see some concrete guidance from the EEOC, many firms are likely to keep playing it safe and only offer basic wellness initiatives that offer rewards for simply participating.