An employee assistance program, or an EAP, is a confidential counselling service that addresses employee health issues, work-life issues or personal problems that affect their work performance. The aim of EAPs is to promote wellness and help workers remain productive.
Employers pay for these services provided by an external organization, or sometimes by a department within the company itself.
What types of services does an EAP offer?
EAPs usually help for the following:
• Workplace conflicts or strained relations
• Job stress
• Substance abuse
• Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, anger management etc.
• Health and care giving issues
• Legal and family advice (marriage counselling, divorce, or child custody issues.)
• Financial counselling
• Grief assistance for those who have suffered loss or trauma
Why offer an EAP?
Such issues, if left untreated, can cause serious employee health problems and result in reduced productivity. EASNA, the trade organization for EAPs says they are a sound investment because for every dollar employer spends on an EAP, the ROI is $3. It has also been found that the enhanced well-being brings down employee healthcare claims considerably.
How Do EAPs Work?
Employees are provided with a phone number they can contact if they wish to seek help. These calls are directed to a trained referral agent, who is familiar with the community’s social, financial and mental health service resources, directs the employee to the appropriate source of assistance. EAPs also offer immediate consultations in crisis situations, such as in the case of severe or life-threatening employee health problems.
How to decide on an EAP provider?
Here’s a checklist that you need to keep in mind when hiring an EAP provider:
• The provider’s experience
• The range of services provided
• How well the EAP fits with employee needs based on an analysis of employee health problems and other issues
• Providers’ list of referral sources
• Provider's availability
• Credentials of counsellors provided
• Nature of fee structure (E.g. Flat fee/Per referral/Based on average usage statistics and number of employees)
• Provider's office location (Local organizations are preferable because of their greater familiarity with community resources.)
How to get the program running smoothly?
Employee Assistance Programmes are unlikely to succeed unless employees understand how they work. Employees are likely to have many questions and concerns about EAPs and may need reassurance before they trust it enough to use it.
A best practice is to provide a brochure with the EAP provider’s details such as name, contact number, list of services offered, etc. Following up with a short training session on the EAP also helps.