Employees continue to seek wellness programs at work, and more employers continue to provide them. But wellness plans are increasingly viewed as an intersection where the Affordable Care Act collides with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the issue is getting interesting.

 

A January 2015 Healthmine survey of consumers found more than 70 percent want help from their employers for managing their health, and 75 percent would like to see incentives attached to such programs. Fewer – about two-thirds – believe workers at healthy weights should see discounts in health insurance premiums, and just more than 50 percent believe rewards should be attached to conscientious treatment of chronic disease.

 

The Affordable Care Act echoes that encouragement for employers to offer wellness programs that reward employees for good health. But the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has announced the federal government will offer guidance so those programs don’t violate the ADA, Elise Viebeck writes for thehill.com. “The Affordable Care Act encouraged companies to introduce wellness programs that reward workers for good health,” Viebeck writes. “But some firms have run into trouble with programs that rely on detailed health screenings and questionnaires that critics say violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

 

Viebeck writes that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to clarify in order to help employers proceed best. The commission sued Honeywell last year, claiming its wellness program that penalized employees who wouldn’t participate in biometric screening violated the ADA, Andrea Davis writes for Employee Benefit Adviser. Though a fine line exists between offering the true incentives employees seek and treating them fairly and lawfully, employers should continue to consider how wellness programs fit into their overall benefits packages and improve employees’ health, therefore preventing expensive health care-related expenses. Employers should be willing to think broadly about these programs, Dan Cook writes for Employee Benefits Pro’s website.

 

The International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans’ recent survey, Workplace Wellness Trends, shows that while traditional wellness programs – like flu shots and smoking cessation programs – are still popular, less-traditional versions, like providing wearable fitness trackers to employees, community charity drives, and tuition reimbursement are also popular with employers. “Employers are taking a greater interest in the social and mental well-being of their employees,” said Julie Stich, the foundation’s director of research. “Both traditional and nontraditional wellness benefits are creating the return on investment employers are looking for in their workplace wellness programs.”