Offering the right workplace benefits is a win-win for employees and employers. Workplace wellness programs are proven to be one of the best employee benefits strategies. In addition to improving employee wellbeing, it also boosts workplace engagement and productivity. No wonder, workplace wellness programs have become an integral part of most organizational policies.
In our previous blog, we briefed the various components for the successful launch of employee wellbeing programs. In addition to a smoothly planned launch, it is essential to incorporate the right modules and engagement strategies to drive the program to success.
Even after thoughtful planning, many workplace programs discriminate employees based on many reasons. While this may impact overall workplace culture, it is more important to protect employee rights and mental wellbeing that may be affected due to the discrimination. To ensure this, there are regulations in place that must be followed by all companies offering employee wellness programs. Be it the vendors or the employers implementing the programs through a third-party provider, they are bound to follow the applicable rules and regulations.
Federal Laws and Regulations for Wellness Programs
The most common and crucial federal laws and regulations that must be implemented for wellness programs at the workplace to protect employees and avoid discrimination include –
- Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applicable guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC)
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Affordable Care Act (ACA)
According to the ADA and GINA rules, employee participation in any wellness program should be voluntary. According to The ADA and GINA rules, employee participation in any wellness program should be voluntary. Also, the EEOC usually updates the terms regarding the penalties and incentives to be structured for wellness programs, including health assessments and screenings.
In addition to these rules and regulations, there are other laws that must be considered while implementing workplace wellness programs. They include –
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – The ADEA restricts employers from discriminating against employees and job seekers based on age for reasons of employment, compensation, and other terms, including benefits.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – The Title VII Act calls for employers offering wellness programs to not make distinctions based on race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, or national origin.
The Internal Revenue Code – Although health benefits provided under a workplace wellness program (including diagnostic tests) are usually tax-free, some rewards and incentives may be taxable. Ideally, employer contributions to a Health FSA, HSA, or Health Reimbursement Arrangement are not subject to employment taxes.
There are exceptions to some of these laws, especially when it comes to small employers. Wellness program vendors and organizations offering workplace wellness programs must research the conditions and exceptions properly to implement the applicable statute.
A wide span of regulations like ERISA, ADA/EEOC, GINA, and HIPAA rules to prevent discrimination and protect employees’ privacy have been in action for a long time. However, the ACA added additional rules specific to wellness programs. Over time, the rules have changed for a few wellness programs that are subject to GINA and ADA regulations. So, employers and wellness program vendors must keep an eye on the latest updates and align their policies accordingly to oblige with the right laws.