Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Employers remain committed to health care amid recession

Employers are hanging on to health care benefits including employee wellness programs, despite financial challenges created by the economic recession, according to a new HR and benefits survey by Towers Perrin.

Even in the face of salary and 401(k) cuts and freezes, many companies are still investing in employee wellness as a part of their workplace “deal” with employees, said the close to 500 HR and benefits executives surveyed.

"Employers recognize that we can't keep doing the same things and expect different results," said Dave Guilmette, Managing Director of the Towers Perrin Health and Welfare practice.

"So we're beginning to see leading companies taking steps to change the system from the inside out, focusing on new benefit designs, incentives for employees and providers, new technologies and new ways to measure and deliver the value of workforce health."

The survey suggests that employers and employees are now looking at health care as more of a shared responsibility between the two.

According to the survey:

  • 53% of respondents are trying or considering new benefit strategies they would not have considered before the economic crisis hit.
  • 70% of employers are increasing communication to address employee concerns
  • 57% of employers are not cutting back on investments in benefit communication and education
  • 50% of companies have or will introduce or increase investments in wellness and health promotion in 2009 and 2010

Employers are changing their ways regarding participation incentives and penalties for nonparticipation. Almost one-third (32%) of companies in the survey have or will introduce or increase financial incentives for wellness or health promotion activities within the next two years. Nearly half (45%) are considering introducing or increasing penalties for nonparticipation in wellness or health promotion activities.

"In previous economic downturns, investments in benefit communication and employee wellness were among the first to get cut from a benefit program," said Guilmette.

"The firm commitment to and increasing investment in employee wellness we’re seeing today shows that more employers are beginning to recognize the long-term financial benefit and business advantage they can achieve by improving the health of their employees."

Has your company been able to avoid cutting back on wellness programs, despite the recession? Does your company punish employees who choose not to participate?

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