Cheryl Heller, vice president of bank operations at Capital One who lives in Maryland, began getting the physicals in 2008, but before that didn't get regular checkups. "Being able to get blood screenings and everything checked out all at the same time appeals to me because of the convenience of it," Heller said.
Spice maker McCormick & Co. said the company aims to keep all employees healthy, offers free preventive care and encourages them to join a gym.
"We want to make the people who are unhealthy healthy and make sure that the people who are currently healthy stay healthy," said James Downing, senior manager of corporate benefits strategy at Sparks-based McCormick.
Regulatory filings show that McCormick executives also have an allowance and reimbursements for wellness issues. CEO Alan D. Wilson received $5,185 in reimbursements and an allowance to pay for financial planning and wellness services, according to the filing.
"The executives are crucial and vital to the sustainability of the company and the future of the company," Downing said.
Hampstead-based Jos. A. Bank also reimbursed executives last year up to $2,500 for medical expenses. But the company said it tries to keep equity between health plans for executives and workers, who all choose from the same insurance benefits packages.
"We understand there are a number of companies that put a premium on the CEO or executive health plan, and we felt that we are all in this together and we all have one benefit package and we want to understand what each other's needs are and meet them mutually," said Bob Hensley, an executive vice president at the company who heads human resources.
Executives-only health programs have been criticized along with other corporate perks. "Perks are not viewed terribly well by shareholders," said Steven Hall, managing director of Steven Hall & Partners, an executive compensation consulting firm that advises compensation committees for large companies.
But such perks aren't as likely to be cut because they don't receive the same scrutiny as others, some compensation experts said. Moreover, the perks can provide tax benefits for a company and be a more cost-effective way of sweetening a pay package.
"With these gold-plated health plans, I don't think they're a significant enough dollar value to cause as much scrutiny as things such as corporate jet use," said Michael Faulkender, an assistant professor of finance at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland who follows compensation issues.
Harris of Ciena said most of the company's 40 executives get the annual physical. It is particularly popular among executives who work overseas and spend a limited time in the U.S.
"We don't have many perks here," Harris said. "The only things we really offer are the physical and tax- planning assistance, and the physical definitely has higher usage."