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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Thank Employees Who Help Contain Health-Care Costs

August 13, 2004
Dear Pinching Pennies:

Link the reward to things that your employees value. A coffee mug probably won't sufficiently motivate someone to change eating habits or take other steps to lead a healthier life. Instead, consider a gift certificate, a T-shirt, a waistband pedometer, a free month at a gym or a wall plaque congratulating them on their accomplishments. Cold, hard cash still works well, too.
Awards should be tied to achieving specific objectives, e.g., completing a health-risk appraisal, participating in a stop-smoking program or attending weight/diet-counseling sessions.
Form a committee of employees to review/suggest the reward options. This makes the rewards as meaningful as possible to your employees. The committee would be able to determine what best motivates individuals to change their lifestyle to be more health-conscious. Management should determine a budget, or financial value, for the rewards, but employees need to have input into what rewards actually work.
Be careful to follow proposed federal regulations concerning wellness programs. These include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You'll have to design reasonable alternative objectives for employees who, because of disability or health factors, are unable to achieve the main objective. Also, depending on the structure of the program, proposed HIPAA rules stipulate that monetary rewards may have to be limited to a certain percentage of the cost of coverage under the health plan.
SOURCE: Nancy Hakes, National Health Practice, The Segal Company, Phoenix, Oct. 2, 2003.
LEARN MORE: ReadWellness: A Novel Approach to learn how Bank One encourages employees to stay healthy.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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