How many of your employees hit the gym? And how many "would" but say they "don't want to pay for a membership"?
You can support an employee's weight loss journey, get another to start leading an active lifestyle, and improve health and wellbeing companywide by covering fitness expenses.
Fitness reimbursement is one of the easiest benefits to set up. In this article, we'll show you how it's done.
What is a fitness reimbursement program?
A fitness reimbursement program is an employee perk covering the cost of a gym membership, class fees, or even personal training sessions. It's an employer-funded plan that extends access to fitness and wellness facilities for all employees.
Examples of expenses covered in a company's fitness program include:
- Memberships to gyms and fitness centers
- Yoga, pilates, and spin classes
- Fees paid for personal training sessions
- Home workout equipment purchases, such as a yoga mat or resistance bands
- Spas and massage therapy
- Country clubs and golf courses
- Sports leagues and running clubs
The company usually determines the reimbursement amount, which employees can use to cover any fitness activities like running or biking and gym memberships.
Reimbursement vs. subsidy vs. stipend
When offering fitness perks, there's an important distinction between gym subsidies, reimbursements, and stipends.
A subsidy is an employer-funded plan that pays for the employees’ gym membership upfront. With a fitness reimbursement program, employees pay for their fitness-related expenses and file for reimbursement in your company's perks and benefits software.
A stipend is similar to a subsidy in that it's a set amount funded upfront. But unlike a subsidy, employees get paid a lump sum of money to cover their membership fees.
Key benefits of corporate fitness reimbursement
Like other lifestyle benefits, a fitness reimbursement program is a straightforward way to promote the health of your employees. It creates a positive dialogue around physical health by encouraging and supporting their choice to get and remain active.
Here are some key benefits of corporate fitness reimbursement:
- Improves employee well-being. Reimbursements for sporting activities can help employees maintain their physical health, which has a positive effect on mental wellness too.
- Enhances productivity. Exercise improves your mood, energy, cognitive functions, and countless other factors. All these benefits directly translate to productivity at work.
- Reduces health insurance costs. According to data from the CDC, an effective workplace health program (which includes fitness perks) leads to 25% savings on healthcare costs. Absenteeism, workers' comp claims, and disability costs are also reduced.
- High ROI. The average ROI from employee health and wellness benefits is 6:1.
- Health-centric company culture. When everyone is encouraged to exercise and take part in fitness activities, it creates a culture that promotes healthy living. If everyone has access to gyms, they can participate in workplace wellness activities together.
- Employee recruitment and retention. Job seekers and team members alike consider wellness programs a high priority. Data from Aflac's 2022-2023 Workforces Report shows us 70% of employees who enroll show higher levels of job satisfaction. Job satisfaction + overall health = long-term retention.
Consider the following before covering your employees' fitness costs:
Some enterprise companies offer extensive health and wellness benefits. You don't have to offer reimbursement for everything under the sun to have a successful program.
Webflow uses Compt to offer employees $200 per month toward fitness reimbursement (or whatever else!).
Evaluate your budget with the finance team, decide what you can afford to offer, and build a fitness reimbursement package that makes sense for the company.
You have to consider your employees with disabilities, like mobility impairments, to maximize participation (and inclusion) in your program.
You can also extend fitness benefits to those who are unable to commute to a gym or participate in traditional sports activities because of physical disabilities.
A supportive environment
Your company culture shouldn't pressure employees into exercising. Instead, it should open the dialogue for healthy choices and support their decision to stay fit.
A fitness reimbursement program is meant to create a comfortable working environment for your employees that encourages physical wellness without making it seem like an obligation.
Reimbursements for gym and fitness memberships are taxable if they're considered part of your employees' pay (they usually are).
But there are a few exceptions, such as if gym reimbursement is part of a "qualified" program. The same is true for gym reimbursements that are part of a transportation fringe benefit (which may be non-taxable).
Compt is 100% tax-compliant, so you can run your fitness reimbursement program without worrying about how to report repayments at tax time.
How to implement a fitness reimbursement employee benefit
There's a right way and a wrong way to do gym reimbursement. You have to consider the health interests of your staff and the goals you have for your business.
1. Create your budget.
Before anything, you have to determine the amount of money you can afford to give your employees for their fitness expenses.
Get together with finance and decide an amount that makes sense for your business. And remember that you don't have to spend a ton of money for an effective program. It's more about how your employees use the money.
Somewhere in the ballpark of $50 to $200 should cover just about everyone.
2. Determine who is eligible.
Most employers have restrictions on who can qualify for fitness reimbursement. You may choose to extend this benefit only to full-time employees, or to part-timers and contractors as well.
It's generally a good idea to make it accessible to as many people as possible. If you have a contract workforce that puts in 30 to 40 hours per week, we strongly recommend extending the benefit to them as well. And if you have interns, you could consider a smaller reimbursement amount.
3. Write a policy outlining the terms of reimbursement.
Your policy should outline the budget, eligible activities, and a list of acceptable expenses. If you have a cap on the amount of money that your employees can spend, make sure to state it clearly.
Be sure to include anything else you deem necessary for the program to succeed. For example, if payments are limited to a certain percentage of total gym fees, then outline that in your policy.
4. Choose fitness providers and decide what your program will cover.
Decide whether you want to work with specific fitness providers or allow employees to be reimbursed no matter where they choose to go. You may even choose to reimburse home workout equipment for remote employees or those who don't like to exercise in public spaces.
The most important thing to remember is inclusivity. You want to offer a benefit everyone can participate in.
Alternatively, you could offer a stipend. There are dozens of ways to use a health and wellness stipend, including gym memberships. The only difference is you won't have to worry about missing the mark.
5. Implement enrollment and payment processes for employees to submit their claims.
Set up an enrollment process where employees can sign up for the benefit and submit a claim when they receive their bill each month.
Look for a platform that handles the submission elements (e.g., photo/receipt uploads), approval and payment processes, and real-time expense management. Your finance team will thank you.
(By the way, Compt manages reimbursements/expenses with ease).
6. Monitor and review progress to ensure your program meets its goals.
To measure the success of your program, you have to track employee enrollment metrics and evaluate their engagement and productivity over time.
If your program has low enrollment, your employees are either uninterested or unaware the program exists.
An employee benefits survey is a good place to start. You should also survey employees on their engagement before and about six months after implementing your fitness reimbursement program.
7. Encourage participation through company incentives.
A fitness reimbursement program is only part of a larger companywide health and wellness initiative.
You can gamify the experience with incentives like fitness challenges, virtual yoga classes, and meditation breaks.
It's also a good idea to sponsor other fitness activities (e.g., 5Ks). You'll integrate fitness deeper into your company culture and improve participation in your fitness reimbursement program as a result.
The most common mistakes employers make when offering fitness reimbursement are...
- Using a paper or spreadsheet-based system
- Not integrating with payroll and expense management systems
- Issuing reimbursements separately from other benefits
- Offering a fitness program that doesn't meet the needs of their employees
- Not having a clear policy in place for eligibility, reimbursement amounts, and what is covered by the program
- Forgetting tax implications
We can't stress this enough. Your fitness reimbursement program should integrate with the rest of your employee benefits package.
Your staff should be able to access their benefit information easily, and you should make the reimbursement process as frictionless as possible.
Compt can help you manage all your benefits in one place, including fitness reimbursement. You can set eligibility requirements, payment caps, automated payroll deductions, and more. All 100% tax-compliant.
Get in touch to see how it works.