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Some employers have implemented a program where smokers covered under the company...

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sj83 | Valedictorian

Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:31 PM via web

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Some employers have implemented a program where smokers covered under the company health care policy must pay an extra $25 per pay period.  Do you think it is appropriate and/or effective for an employer to steer an employee toward a healthier lifestyle?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM (Answer #1)

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I am sure that it is appropriate for an employer to do this.  I do not know if it is effective.  I think that it is certainly worth trying.

It is appropriate for an employer to try to nudge employees towards healthier lifestyles so long as the employer is helping to pay for the health insurance that the employees receive.  Because the employer has to take part in paying for the insurance, it has an interest in keeping the employees healthy.  If the employer can help to create a healthier workforce, it can save money on insurance.  Lowering costs (without harming productivity or quality) is always a good thing.  Doing so allows companies to remain competitive.

Trying to steer workers like this may or may not be effective.  It is not easy to break an addiction to smoking, which means that the attempt to influence employees may fail.  Some workers may resent being nudged in these ways.  It is possible that some workers might quit the company if they are faced with this sort of a program.

I would say that this is certainly something that a company could try.  However, I think it might be worth it to the company to experiment and see if positive incentives for healthier living (extra vacation, for example) would work better than punishments for those who do not live healthily.

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