With wellness programs increasing in popularity in the workforce, it is important that employers ensure their programs are in compliance with federal regulations. There are multiple laws impacting wellness programs, depending on the type of plan you implement (e.g. voluntary or mandatory; participation-based or goal-based incentives). Appropriate incentives for wellness programs can include:
• Reimbursement for the cost of a gym membership
• Rewards for attending a monthly health education seminar
• Cash incentives for participating in a cholesterol or blood screening
• Reimbursement for weight loss or smoking cessation programs
Make sure your plan is non-discriminatory. In particular, goal-based plans have several requirements for compliance, including providing eligible employees with an opportunity to qualify for incentives at least annually, and offering an alternative to employees whose circumstances would make participation difficult. Wellness programs encourage your workforce to stay healthy, which ultimately will keep your healthcare costs down. It is advisable, however, to work with legal counsel when designing a wellness program due to the compliance requirements and the variations in program design.
Update: Paid Sick Leave Mandate
The Healthy Families Act, if passed, will apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The act will mandate that employees are given seven days per year of paid sick leave on an accrued basis. Sick leave will accrue at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 56 hours of sick leave. Accumulations beyond 56 hours are allowed but not required of employers.