Understanding The Impact Of New Regulations On Your Workplace Wellness Programs

Understanding The Impact Of New Regulations On Your Workplace Wellness Programs

Workplace wellness programs can be challenging to manage, especially when you factor in changing regulations. Both the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act includes wellness programs which are provided by employers. The two regulatory systems provide a framework by which wellness programs in the workplace can remain in compliance at all times.

What Is A Wellness Program?

Wellness programs are established by employers as a method of encouraging their employees to remain physically fit and healthy. The state of an employee’s health will have an impact on their productivity, and a strong workforce is the most profitable. Wellness programs will typically consist of features such as health evaluations, questionnaires or even biometric screenings to determine potential health risks. Some corporations may go as far as to provide fitness rooms and equipment so that employees can exercise during breaks or before/after work.

Wellness programs serve two primary purposes. First, they give employees the opportunity to learn more about their health while encouraging them to improve or maintain it, which results in greater productivity and less absenteeism due to illness. Second, a company which provides its employees with a wellness program shows that it cares and this will result in greater loyalty from workers and lower turnover.

Recent Regulations Which Influence Wellness Programs

Employers are allowed to ask their employees questions which are related to their health. Additionally, they may perform certain medical evaluations like biometric screenings. In regards to spousal coverage, if both a worker and their spouse perform a biometric screening or evaluation, the premium discount will be capped at a maximum of 60 percent for the cost of coverage for single employees within the employer’s most cost effective health plan.

Within the Affordable Care Act, the 50 percent cap only applies to incentives which are tobacco related. An employee will be asked whether or not they use tobacco, and wellness programs which evaluate for tobacco usage will be eligible for the 30 percent cap under the ADA. The Affordable Care Act provides two types of incentives, which are in kind and financial. This could include discounts or even gift cards. Transgender employees also benefit under the new regulations. Specifically, these regulations make it harder for this group to be excluded.

Deadlines For Compliance

It is important for employers to be mindful of the deadline for these regulations.  The new regulations will need to be adopted by January 2017. This is when the changes will go into effect, and they will apply to every wellness program. It should also be emphasized that incentives will not be allowed in exchange for existing or past health results for an employee’s children or for genetic information like the family’s medical history.

Sending out a sample letter to your workforce is the best way to make them aware of the new wellness program and the changing regulations.  These programs may seem complicated, but they become less so when you work with a competent and reliable HR team.  A good HR team will ensure that your company is in compliance at all times.