With the arrival of the New Year, many people have vowed to eat healthier and establish fitness goals, making these personal resolutions in an effort to start 2023 off on the right foot. Unfortunately, at least one recent study suggests that 80% will abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February.
While some employers may feel inclined to let health and fitness goals remain personal endeavors, these issues may have a marked positive effect on the workplace. Healthy employees miss less work, are generally more productive and with better morale, making the support of a healthy workforce a long-term investment. By making long-term changes focused on their own well-being with the support of the employer, employees may demonstrate increased productivity and attentiveness, which in turn could help those employees avoid costly mistakes and workplace accidents. In a world where employers are facing increased difficulty finding and retaining good employees, the provision of a comprehensive employee health program may also prove to be a valuable recruiting and retention tool. Of course, there is a hefty price tag that comes with enhanced health programs, but there is still off-set in the form of cost savings to the employer in the areas of sick pay and health insurance benefits. Broadly speaking, healthy employees are happy employees, making for an overall more positive work environment.
With such benefits in mind, employers may want to consider implementing an employee wellness program. Such programs can take many forms, including company-sponsored gym memberships, health screenings, vaccination clinics, among many others. Employers may be wondering what type of program might work best for their workforce. In that regard, employee surveys can be extremely beneficial to help shed some light on the particular wants and needs of the employees. For larger employers, it may be helpful to establish a wellness program advisory team or committee who can lead the charge of developing and sustaining a workable employee health program and keeping employees engaged in the program throughout the year.
If the thought of getting involved in your employees’ personal health issues makes you uneasy, your intuition is not wrong. Any number of legal concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can sprout up in situations focused on employee health. Employers should take care to avoid denying access to a wellness program to any employee on the basis of a real or perceived disability, and should ensure there is a plan for providing reasonable accommodations for those employees with disabilities to allow them full access and participation in the program. As always, any personal health information gathered by employers should be kept confidential and on a need-to-know basis in a file that is kept wholly separate from the employee’s personnel file.
Companies who opt into employee health programs can help set their employees on a path of long-term health and well-being, which in turn can serve to benefit the business in a number of ways. Because of the potential employment law and tax implications of these types of programs, employers should consult with counsel prior to unveiling any new programs or policies.