Most of us would prefer a bigger paycheck to a couple of sessions with a lifestyle coach or some free yoga classes. After all, given enough of a raise, you could probably spring for that unlimited card, all by yourself. But given that it’s cheaper to sponsor a fitness competition than it is to give everyone at the company a 3 percent pay increase – and that healthier employees equals lower healthcare costs for the employer – you can probably expect to see a lot more emphasis on wellness in years to come.
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The Society for Human Resource Management’s annual Employee Benefits research report is out, and it reveals an interesting approach on the behalf of employers coping with the new coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
From the report’s executive summary:
One of the key strategies many employers are using to reduce health care benefits costs is to boost employee health through preventive health and wellness benefits. The past five years have seen increases in the percentage of organizations offering general wellness programs, health care premium discounts for employees’ participation in various programs, health and lifestyle coaching, and preventive programs specifically targeting employees with chronic health conditions.
These wellness programs include everything from on-site flu vaccines to health and lifestyle coaching to gym reimbursements. None of this is new, of course.
“For years, companies have been doing things like offering smoking cessation programs and rewarding employees with discounts for taking health assessments,” writes Jena McGregor at The Washington Post. “But Evren Esen, director of survey programs for SHRM, said this year’s data show that a greater range of benefits are quickly ‘becoming more integrated into the organizational fabric of companies.'”
In addition, the number of companies offering standard perks like dental and health insurance and 401(k) plans also seems to be increasing. Thirty-five percent of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM said their companies were expanding benefits coverage this year, as opposed to 28 percent last year.
Not on the rise? Wages. Last month’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed no wage growth, and the year to date has been similarly unimpressive. The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for all employed US workers, reflected only a 0.3 percent increase in wages for the second quarter, after a 1.7 percent increase for Q1, and forecasts a 0.4 percent increase next quarter.
Bottom line: this year, you might be more likely to score a gym discount than a raise – at least one that improves your financial health.
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