UWUA Local 304 Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO

“The Safeway Amendment” in the Affordable care act came about when, in 2009, Safeway CEO Steven Burd wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about a program his company was implimenting to address employee health concerns in an attempt to head off skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Since then, employers have jumped aboard the employee wellness band wagon to the tune of spending over $2 billion dollar a year on employee health and wellness programs. These programs have sought to incetivize employees into more healthy living habits, cajole them, and sometimes downright threaten them for non-participation.

Wellness programs themselves have come under fire for employers violation of employees medical privacy, and how they use healthcare data they collected in decisions affecting employees. Program detractors claim such efforts unfair because they award those employees blessed with good health and punishing those who may have, through genetic predisposition, chronic health issues, or their own lifestyle choices; may suffer ill health. This has led to accusations of “cost shifting” healthcare costs onto those employees identified as not healthy.

It has been revealed that many corporations involved in employee wellness programs actually lose money due to the punitive aspects of their programs and by their programs not being employee supported. It has been suggested that this loss on return of investment (ROI) may be as much as a quarter for every dollar spent.

So what makes a healthy workplace were employees value, understand, and appreciate how their personal health affects their employer?

One thing that stands out in case studies of effective versus ineffective health and wellness programs is the corporate culture of individual employers. Employers who have worked hard to create an atmosphere of true mutual respect and appreciation of their employees in a cooperative and functiong workplace not only enjoy greater overall productivity, but also have more success and employee engagement in implimenting and administering their health and wellness initiatives.

By the same token, employers who want to be seen as following the latest trends in establishing heath and wellness programs but may have a contentious, combative, or antagonistic relationship with their workforces have little success in implimenting successful programs.

The bottom line is that you cannot cure a sick worplace culture by the addition of an employer sponsored and managed heath and wellness program.

If you work for an employer or in a corporate culture where the employer is often accused of being dishonest, hostile, or simply uncaring of their employees then the prospect of a successful wellness program is very unlikely.

For more information, click the above highlighted links to help understand this complicated issue.