Is Your Workplace Wellness Program Compliant in 2017?

Workplace wellness programs are constantly evolving, not only from the planning and strategy of the programs but also from the compliance aspect. Last year was an active year in for the EEOC. They had two new regulations passed in regards to employee wellness program that refer to the guidelines from the ADA and GINA.  Both of these regulations passed last year and became effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

The first rule provides guidance around the employer-sponsored wellness programs as they pertain to employees with health restrictions and disabilities (ADA) and non-employee/spouses health information (GINA).  It states that programs must be voluntary and an employer cannot deny access to the health plan if an employee refuses to participate. Reasonable accommodations must be available to employees with disabilities that are unable to participate or complete the program.

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Employers may provide limited financial and other incentives in exchange for an employee answering disability-related questions or taking medical examinations as part of a wellness program, whether or not the program is part of a health plan. It further states that employers may provide limited financial and other inducements (also called incentives) in exchange for an employee’s spouse providing information about his or her current or past health status as part of a wellness program, whether or not the program is part of a group health plan.* Programs collecting this data must be reasonably designed so this information is used for follow up or advice and will benefit the health improvement of the workplace.

The second regulation that became effective this year is a new employee notice regarding Employee Wellness Programs and the ADA’s regulation to inform employees about specific details of a wellness program. Beginning January 2017 the EEOC will require employers that offer wellness programs that collect employee health information to provide a notice to employees informing them of what medical information will be collected, who will receive the medical information, how the employee’s information will be used, and how the employee’s information will be kept confidential. It is the responsibility as the employer to ensure that the employees receive this notice before they provide any information or participate in any programs, such as biometrics or health assessments. If you are in need of a copy of this notice, please contact me at tblocker@w3ins.com and I will be happy to assist you.

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Wallace, Welch, Willingham will keep you informed of any further changes to the employee wellness programs and compliance issues as they arise.

*https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/qanda-gina-wellness-final-rule.cfm

**Employer Benefit Advisor, Avoiding retaliatory action in new wellness rules, by Brenna Davenport, published 2/2/17
http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/avoiding-retaliatory-action-in-new-wellness-rules