Wegmans showers workers with health perks

While the Northeast supermarket chain is cutting benefits ahead of Obamacare, it's also putting cash into clinics and classes for all employees.

By Jason Notte Aug 7, 2013 7:18AM
Wegmans grocery store in Fairfax, Va. (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)It's one thing to say you're cutting part-timers' health care benefits because of Obamacare and declare it a bottom-line issue. It's another to do so while still offering those workers a full slate of wellness programs that are producing results.

That's the situation Northeast supermarket chain Wegmans found itself in when it announced earlier this year that it would cut the health care benefits of part-time workers starting in 2015. It currently offers coverage to all workers employed for 20 hours a week or more.

While it's been noted by The Buffalo News that Wegmans employees might be better off under Obamacare, given the subsidies included therein, Wegmans is trying to make it abundantly clear that the health of its employees is a lot more than a line item. The Huffington Post made the case for the chain by sharing the story of an employee who lost 35 pounds, thanks to Wegmans' blood screening and fitness programs.

It also detailed efforts by chief executive Danny Wegman to funnel some of the company's $6.6 billion in sales toward blood pressure tests, nutrition coaching and on-site yoga and Zumba classes. That's not just for folks up the the corporate suites but for each of the company's 45,000 workers, right down to the checkout clerks.

Wegmans says it has been a worthwhile investment. It told Supermarket News that the share of its workers with high blood pressure has dropped from 24% to 14% since 2008. Wegmans saw a similar drop in the share of its workers with a high body mass index, a measure of body fat, during the same period.

For the company, it's an equal investment in both its workers and its brand. According to a 2010 Harvard University study, every dollar spent on wellness programs earns companies $3.27 on average. Another Harvard study found that such programs keep workers from switching companies.

They also bring some consistency to the Wegmans brand, which includes an in-house label replete with high-fiber and high-calcium products targeted at health-conscious consumers and a corporate policy that banned tobacco products from stores in 2008.

Wegmans may be joining Wendy's (WEN), Papa John's (PZZA), Denny's (DENN) and others in cutting part-timers' benefits, but it's going to great lengths not to have its views toward worker health lumped in with those of the fast-food folks. In Wegmans' view, it's not ducking a problem but offering a solution.

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Aug 7, 2013 11:12AM
All this without government interference or pressure.
Aug 7, 2013 10:25AM
This is a good start toward delivering 'enlightened' capitalism,
wherein labor is viewed as an asset, rather than a liability.

Its the only type of capitalism which will survive going forward
instead of the type which will ultimately devour itself.

Aug 7, 2013 3:16PM
Obama care should be mandatory for all congress. Lets see how they like it
Aug 7, 2013 3:10PM
Everyone who voted for Obamacare should be forced to participate
Aug 7, 2013 1:54PM

Wegmans has always been known as a great employer.

They seem to care about the community, their customers, and employees.

Three cheers for this business model.  People respect the way they do business and as a result they go to Wegmans and the bottom line takes care of itself.

Aug 7, 2013 2:01PM
I like just about anything better than government run business.... has anyone found any business run by any form of government to be successful? Feds, state. city or other.... If so please list it under comments. Thanks
Aug 7, 2013 2:39PM
What Wegmans is doing is nice, but how does it help the employee who breaks a wrist or gets a severe case of the flu and needs to be hosptialized.   Wellness programs and blood pressure screenings are great, low cost methods to maintain your health, but they don't do a darn thing for you if you're allergic to bees and accidentally get stuck.
Aug 7, 2013 1:56PM
Attention, moving forward the government will decide what type of health care and wellness plans are best for the peasants.  Those with jobs should return to work now,  all others please patiently wait for next month's check.
Aug 7, 2013 2:34PM
It's going to be great whenever Obamacare fully kicks in and all healthcare is FREE....oh, wait.
Aug 7, 2013 2:06PM
One of the few things I miss about Northeast Pennsylvania after moving to North Carolina is the local Wegmans store.  These are absolutely wonderful super markets which average 150,000 square feet.  From the pizza shop to the Chinese buffet to the Sub counter to the array of prepared foods to take home, it was always done in an environment of wonderful aesthetics and cleanliness.  It is almost impossible to describe to anyone who has not been in a Wegmans store what the experience is like.
Aug 7, 2013 2:44PM
A good master keeps his wage slaves healthy! (and hungry!)
Aug 7, 2013 2:26PM
Never heard of them but they sound like a great company. I may have to shop there if they ever open one in my town.
Aug 7, 2013 2:50PM
the sad state of this country is people expecting someone else to pay for their essential services and basic needs...these services esp. health care would be much reduced in price if existing in a free market model...the entitlement mentality can't survive...most people are ill due to self induced behaviors burdening others who maintain their health
Aug 7, 2013 3:05PM
Unfortunately Wegman's is the exception rather than the rule. If all companies were as progressive as Wegman's then healthcare wouldn't be an issue.
Aug 7, 2013 4:08PM
Crap. While the preventive measures are laudable, and should be standard practice, cutting benefits will hurt many workers. Losing weight and lowering your blood pressure will not help you if you get hit by a car or get cancer. If something happens to their part-time workers in the future, it will go on the Medicaid bill, or more likely result in higher costs because they will go to the ER. They may be better than other companies cutting their workers benefits, but they are still cutting their workers benefits.
Aug 7, 2013 3:52PM
Non-profit Universal Single Payer Health Care Insurance
Aug 7, 2013 4:31PM
Insurance Companies to Obama. Thank you! No Public Option. Thank you. Congress to Obama, we don't want to participate in this. OK. WE have voted to exempt ourselves from this Obamacare. OK.
Aug 7, 2013 4:34PM
Walmart lets the government take care of its employees health care. 
Aug 7, 2013 4:25PM
If more companies followed Wegmans'  model, maybe Obama care wouldn't be needed to fill the hole that the majority of  companies create by doing the minimum or nothing when it comes to genuine health care and the health of their employees.
Aug 7, 2013 5:20PM
They also don't allow the customer service employees to sit down even when there are no customers.
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