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Summary: An Employee Assistance Program can offer services and resources to assist your team with personal and professional concerns. While not mandatory, an EAP could improve employee productivity and engagement as well as reduce absenteeism. It is important to share as much information as possible with your employees to increase utilization.
Are Your Employees Using Their EAP Benefits?
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an optional benefit you may offer your employees in addition to healthcare. EAPs provide a wide range of services and resources to assist with both personal and professional issues.
EAP services can vary significantly. Some offer only counseling services. Others offer a collection of services and resources including:
- legal aid,
- financial consultations,
- dependent care,
- and referrals.
You can choose from several delivery models available depending on your organization’s budget and needs.
Does it make sense to add an EAP to your benefits program?
This is not a mandatory benefit that you must offer. But this is a benefit that may make more sense now than ever before, especially for small businesses.
A recent Boston University School of Medicine study found the COVID-19 pandemic has likely tripled depression rates in the United States. And according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), EAPs can improve employee productivity and engagement as well as reduce absenteeism.
If you do offer an EAP, you can increase use of this important benefit by sharing information about it. According to the same SHRM report, many employees never use their employers’ EAP services. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of knowledge.
Companies typically touch upon their EAP during open enrollment. But reminding employees of available services should be a year-long effort. You might include reminders in regular employee communications or hold a seminar to review resources. Focus on options across a variety of topics, while making sure employees know the services are:
- Available without any company approval or permission
EAPs offer services at no cost to employees and, in most cases, their immediate families. One exception is if an employee receives a referral for further services or long-term counseling. They should ask about extra costs or ask for in-network providers (if applicable). Employers do not typically cover costs associated with external referrals.
When employees voluntarily use services offered through their EAP, it is confidential. This is especially important for a variety of services including counseling. Employees can rest easy knowing conversations and information will not be shared or affect their job. In most instances, an employee must give written permission to share information.
There are some rare exceptions. Disciplinary concerns – like a positive drug test – may cause mandatory counseling. In these cases, an employer may require notification that the employee is attending and may inquire about progress.
EAPs do also provide general reporting including the number of employees assisted with which services. But employees are not identified individually.
There are still many stigmas that exist with regard to receiving mental health help. Occupational counseling programs began as a result of alcohol abuse in the 1940s. But they have grown to be an important resource for many employees. Counseling is also not the only service available in most EAPs. Companies can stress, if applicable, the wide variety of resources available.
Ensure your employees know they do not need to ask for permission to access the resources available. Most EAPs have 24-hour toll-free numbers that employees can use. This can reduce the need to allow service use during working hours.
While voluntary, offering an EAP as part of a benefits package has myriad benefits. It can make your employees more satisfied and productive. It can help your workplace operate more successfully. And reminding them of the services available will bring you more return on your investment for this benefit.