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Employee Wellness Plans – The Time Is Right

One of the strategic initiatives used in the modern business world is the increasingly popular employee wellness plan. Healthcare costs continue to rise. Some of this is attributable to the health effects of near-epidemic level obesity and stress from our fast-paced lives. In response to this trend, many employers are bringing what was once considered “personal stuff” into the workplace. Employee wellness plans vary greatly and may include things as simple as offering perks to employees who participate in medical questionnaires, to more advanced offerings such as on-site smoking cessation classes, personal trainers, and company-sponsored health food catering.

What are some of the benefits?

Improved Quality of Life - A valuable benefit to employees is an improved quality of life, which spills over into the workplace.

Happier Employees - Research has shown improved health leads to greater employee engagement. In fact, the first annual Keas Employee Happiness Index showed that employees who participate in health programs are three times more likely to be engaged and satisfied at work.  Creating a healthy culture can set the groundwork for encouraging employees to be the best they can be for themselves, their families, and their employer!

Increased Productivity - Healthier employees are more productive, have lower rates of absenteeism, and usually have higher morale.

Improved Bottom Line - Choosing to have a wellness plan can also benefit the company’s bottom line as well as the employee’s pocketbook. When medical claims are reduced and participants are showing progress toward their health goals, many insurance carriers will lower premiums and this savings can be shared with employees. Saving money on insurance, just by lowering cholesterol, laying down the cigarettes, or attending periodic health education classes can be a strong incentive for employee participation.

Return on Investment - Although implementing an employee wellness program can be costly, there is good news: studies show the return on investment for these plans can be anywhere from under $2 to upwards of $6 for every dollar spent. And the program elements need not be elaborate – take out the vending machines, use the conference room for weight loss support meetings, team up with the local gym to offer discounts to participants, and use staff meetings as a time to celebrate achievements and build camaraderie among employees.

With all benefits wellness programs can offer, employers must consider some of the potential pitfalls before signing on. Some employees may be leery about discussing their health with their employer and even perceive such discussions as a violation of privacy. In fact, one of the most challenging issues facing employee wellness plans is the legality; there is a fine line between proper implementation and full-out violation of privacy and disability protection laws.

The Affordable Care Act of 2014 mentions some helpful guidelines, such as make the plan voluntary instead of mandatory, offer employees ways to earn incentives that are not discriminatory (e.g., encourage participation vs. requiring everyone to meet certain goals that may not be feasibly achieved by all), and make sure programs are specifically designed to promote health. Be aware, the ACA 2014 also limits the amount of allowable incentives.

The legality of employee wellness plans is, for the most part, uncharted territory, and as more employers offer these programs, the laws will likely expand in response to legal claims and litigation. When considering plans, it is always a good idea to work with your attorney and/or a third-party wellness plan provider in order to find the best way to minimize your liability.

Offering an employee wellness plan might be a great way to build a successful, efficient staff, which can have countless advantages to your business overall. So, research the market and find a plan that will best fit the needs of your employees. Make sure to offer options and perks that will boost morale, inspire and motivate, and create a culture of health and wellness that will benefit all!

-- Joel Myers


Affinity Program Partner Methodist Healthcare offers a discounted wellness service to all Greater Memphis Chamber member businesses. Learn more here: http://memphischamber.com/Members/Member-Services-Resources/Affinity-Program/Methodist-Healthcare




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SMALL BUSINESS
Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

CONTRIBUTORS
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Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit www.fisherphillips.com.

PARAGON BANK
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