wellness programs

Workforce wearables are not wearing thin

Have a Fitbit? An Apple Watch? You’re among the growing number of people entering the wearables craze.

These portable monitors collect reams of data about those wearing them, including heart rate and the number of steps walked. When synced to a Web or computer program, the wearables can start to gather data that can determine whether users are getting their needed exercise.

Wearables tie in perfectly with wellness programs, which have become a staple of employer-offered health care plans. In many cases, insurance rates can be tied to wellness program participation. Wellness administrators such as Viverae offer online platforms where users can log and track various fitness metrics, such as their daily number of steps. Users can also sync their wearables to such sites.

Like wellness programs, wearables don't appear to be going anywhere any time soon. According to ABI Research, more than 13 million wearables will be synced with corporate wellness programs by 2018.

For employers, wearables can enhance an existing wellness program or jump-start a new one. Employee education could be key. If workers know of the benefits of meeting wellness incentives and are aware of how an Apple Watch or a Fitbit can help them meet the benchmarks needed to lower their health-plan costs, it's possible that more of the workforce might elect to use these devices.

The appeal of wearables to companies should be obvious. If employees use wearables to meet wellness and fitness goals, the result could be a fitter, healthier, happier, more productive workforce.

For more questions on wearables, wellness programs and other employee benefits matters, contact your Plexus client representative directly, or reach out to us at 847-307-6100 (Deer Park), 312-606-4800 (Chicago), 972-770-5010 (Dallas) or 405-840-3033 (Oklahoma). You can also contact us via the Web.

Employee data: Why firms need to know “GINA”

GINA Employer-run wellness programs aim to improve employee health outcomes, thus lowering health costs for companies and their team members.  

Along the way, companies and the firms they trust to administer wellness programs gather reams and reams of employee data, including genetic data.

Such data collection places numerous responsibilities on companies. For starters, there is the importance of protecting employee data from cyber criminals seeking to profit from the sale of employee data on the black market. Firms should have an up-to-date cybersecurity plan in place, one that includes cyber insurance.

Furthermore, the collection of employee data also means firms must be familiar with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Under this law, firms are allowed to collect some employee genetic information in connection with a company-offered wellness program.

However, according to GINA, it is unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee; or . . .  to limit, segregate, or classify the employees of the employer in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any employee of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of the employee as an employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee.”

Companies who run afoul of GINA could find themselves subject to enforcement action from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For instance, a now-defunct New York nursing home and rehabilitation center agreed to pay $370,000 after being charged with requesting job applicants furnish family medical history during pre-employment medical exams.

Employers should have ample motivation to help their workers lead healthy lives, and wellness programs can play a key role in the process. And there’s little doubt that the data collected within wellness programs can help workers make healthy choices.

However, companies must be aware of what they can and can’t do with data collected from employees.

Have questions about GINA or wellness programs? The Plexus Groupe can help. Contact us at 847-307-6100 (Chicago) or 972-770-5010 (Dallas) and ask to speak with a client service team member. We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.