Does your organization sponsor a wellness program that collects employee health information under health risk assessments, health screenings, or biometric screenings?
Well, for organizations that do collect such employee medical information, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a “Sample Notice for Employer-Sponsored Wellness Programs.” The notice provides employers that collect medical data under their wellness programs with the information that they are required to supply to their employees in the EEOC final rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act, issued May 17.
The information that must be disclosed includes: “what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it, and what will be done to keep it confidential.”
The disclosure to employees must also state that: the wellness program is voluntary and available to all employees; participation in health risk assessments or biometric screen is not required; employees who choose to participate in wellness programs will receive incentives of specified amounts; and the organization will maintain the security and privacy of personally identifiable health information.
The requirement to provide the notice takes effect as of the first day of the plan year that begins on or after Jan. 1, 2017, for the health plan an employer uses to calculate any incentives it offers as part of the wellness program.
Also, employees must receive the notice “before providing any health information, and with enough time to decide whether to participate in the program,” the EEOC said in questions and answers accompanying the notice. “Waiting until after an employee has completed an HRA or medical examination to provide the notice is illegal,” it said.
Under the Q&As, the EEOC said employers may allow their wellness program sponsors to provide the required notice to their employees, but “the employer is still responsible for ensuring that employees receive it.” EEOC also specifies that the notice to employees does not need to be signed by them.
Also, in the Q&As, the EEOC said that employers do not need to use “the exact words” from the sample notice and that the notice can be provided in any format, including hard copy or email. Employees with disabilities, however, such as the blind, deaf or learning disabled, may need to have the information provided to them in an “alternative format,” the EEOC said.
The EEOC warned employers against “providing the notice along with a lot of information unrelated to the wellness program as this may cause employees to ignore or misunderstand the contents of the notice.”
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