Employer Wellness Programs Expanding Beyond Physical Health: What Are The Risks?

A recent survey of 129 mid-sized employers regarding their employee wellness programs found that many employers are adding mental health and financial health to their basic physical health programs.

Eighty-seven percent of the respondents offer their employees emotional or mental health programs. Of those, 54 percent provide stress management classes, and 27 percent offer resilience training. Employee participation has not caught on because only five percent of employees participate in the stress management support, and three percent in the resilience training.

Financial assistance is offered by 76 percent of the employers surveyed, with 73 percent providing workplace financial seminars; 31 percent organizing financial health challenges; and 59 percent making one-on-one financial counseling available. Employee participation rates in these programs are also low. Survey respondents say only eight percent of employees attend financial seminars, and only seven percent complete the financial challenges.

Most employers surveyed plan to either expand their wellness program offerings (67 percent) or continue them as they are (17 percent). Shelby Livingston "Wellness programs evolving to mental and financial health,"www.businessinsurance.com (Apr. 1, 2016).

Commentary

This trend to include mental health and financial health support in employee wellness programs is considered by many to be a positive addition to the workplace environment. Emotional and financial stress can undermine an employee’s ability to perform at his or her best. Employers who choose to follow suit, however, need to understand the risks involved.

Providing employees mental health and financial wellness programs comes with a high expectation of privacy. Keeping mental health records confidential is of particular concern under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and failing to secure employee financial information creates a risk of identity theft.

Employers must have an employee’s written authorization as to the collection of private information for wellness programs. Store the information securely, and make certain access to the information is limited on a need-to-know basis in favor of protecting privacy. Failure to do so may result in equal employment, privacy and/or negligence claims.

Via:  Hartford Help