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June 13, 2016 Amelia Wilcox

3 Tips to Keep Your Company Wellness Program Compliant

As much as employers want to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs, there are necessary limits as to how encouraging employers can be.

In this article, we’ll give you a few ideas to make sure your wellness program is compliant with the latest finalized rules for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Wellness Programs at Work: 3 Compliance Tips


As reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the complexity of regulations around starting a corporate wellness program can be difficult to navigate.

By providing opportunities, information, and instruction on wellness, disease, nutrition, and exercise, workplace wellness programs can give some employees the leg up they need to be at their best.

But because wellness programs can often deal with personal information, there are a lot of rules and regulations around what can and can’t happen.

Related: 4 Laws Anyone Working in Corporate Wellness Should Know


wellness programs at work


1. Analyze your corporate wellness program incentives

We all know that incentives can encourage participation in wellness activities. But there are restrictions in place that detail how incentives can be used.

For an office wellness program, incentives can not exceed the cost of 30% of annual health premiums, or 50% for tobacco cessation programs. That means all those gift cards, electronic goodies, and athletic accessories you’re stock piling for incentives need to be kept in check. 

However, since the restriction is based on a percentage, the only thing really holding you back is how much you’re willing to spend on employee health in the first place. If you want to offer more enticing incentives, you can boost your wellness program as much as makes financial sense.

Related: Wellness Incentive Ideas: The What and The Why


workplace wellness programs


2. Don’t get too personal

If you’ve hung around our blog long enough, you’ve seen that we’re big advocates for getting as much feedback and info from your employees as possible. After all, to build successful programs for your workers, you’ll want to know what they want and where they’re starting from.

But when it comes to health and wellness, there are some rules around the kinds of questions you can ask.

Employer-sponsored wellness programs can’t ask for personal health information such as diagnoses, conditions, or the nature of a disability. This goes for both the employee and any of their family members who may participate in the wellness program.

Your employees and their families have a right to privacy and confidentiality when it comes to their personal health information. So before conducting any pre-program assessment, make sure your questions are not out of line.

As SHRM points out, asking about tobacco usage is a different line of questioning than asking about disability status, so there is some leeway with tobacco cessation programs.


company wellness program ideas


3.  Provide alternatives in your company wellness program

To keep your wellness program accessible to all employees, make sure your program’s events, activities, and resources are accessible. That means that employees who are not physically able to participate in some incentive-earning activities should be given alternative options.

For example, if the company is offering financial incentives for participation in a local 5k run, an accommodation needs to be offered to employees who are physically unable to participate.

Consider a non-strenuous activity such as participation in a healthy cooking demonstration or backyard gardening class. Depending on your employees’ interests and abilities, create a list of possible alternatives to physically demanding activities like races.

To keep your wellness program working for everyone, just remember that wellness is not one-size-fits-all. Progress can look very different from one person to the next. So as long as there are ample opportunities at all levels, your employees will be well taken care of.



Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)