Monday, July 7, 2008

Waistlines a heavier workplace issue, Japan passes obesity law

Japanese employers are now legally required to fight obesity in the workplace or face fines. The law that went into effect April 1, 2008 forces companies and government, the two sources of health insurance in Japan, to measure the body fat of employees between 40 and 74.

If waistline measurements exceed government limits (33.5” for men, 35.4” for women), employers must pay more into the national health care system.

Employees working for Japanese companies in the U.S. have no need to fear mandated body fat measurements just yet. Japanese firs say the law will not lead to disciplinary measures against overweight employees in America, according to a recent article from Workforce Management.

While the government may require it in Japan, wellness programs in the U.S. are still mainly voluntary and incentive based. “While most companies say they have a genuine concern for their employees' well being, the rising cost of health care is obviously part of the equation,” according to a recent article titled “Can your company force you to be healthy?”

Take a look at some interesting workplace obesity statistics covered in the article:

  • Obesity-related health issues cost U.S. companies approximately $13 billion every year.
  • Almost one third of companies offering health insurance benefits to employees also provide a wellness program of some sort.
  • Fitness, smoking cessation and weight-loss programs are provided most frequently.

Although they can be helpful, some employees think workplace wellness programs are intrusive and make them “bristle at what they perceive as having lifestyle choices dictated by an employer.”

Implementing a wellness program is not always easy and just because you have one in place doesn’t mean employees will immediately jump on board.

“As it turns out, maintaining a successful wellness program can require the same sort of commitment from a company as working to stay healthy does from an employee.”

What are the best ways you’ve found to get employees involved in corporate wellness programs?

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