Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are confidential services that are typically offered by third parties, such as health insurance carriers. They are geared toward helping employees handle a variety of issues that can affect their physical and mental health. An EAP is not a substitute for a health insurance plan but is rather a fully-funded supplement to a regular plan, as explained by Health Affairs. Employees typically don’t have to pay to use these services.

You might consider investing in an EAP if it fits in your budget. The cost of an EAP is low, typically around $12 to $20 a year per employee. Your employees will receive a card with an EAP contact number on the back, and they can call the EAP number to be directed to the best type of counselor or professional to help them.

Advantages of an EAP

Why might you want to offer an EAP to your employees? The comparatively low cost of an employee assistance program can bring significant advantages and savings to your business.

  • Work absences may decrease due to greater access to confidential counseling. A Hartford study cited by Mental Health Works showed that disability claims due to psychological issues were 17 days shorter, on average, for companies with EAPs. Other studies cited by Mental Health Works have backed this up, showing that work absences decrease when employees have access to an EAP, partially because these absences are often due to mental health issues.
  • Work performance and productivity can increase. A Federal Occupational Health program study showed that the number of employees who had difficulty performing their work because of physical problems decreased from 15 percent to five percent with the introduction of an EAP, and the number of employees who had difficulty performing work due to mental health problems decreased from 30 percent to eight percent.
  • You might lose fewer employees. EAPs help employees achieve a better work-life balance by reducing anxiety and improving health. Happy employees are more likely to stay at a job, which reduces turnover and saves you the high costs of hiring and training replacements.

Services Offered by an EAP

How exactly do employee assistance programs make such a big difference? EAPs typically offer a number of services:

  • Counseling sessions for emotional or interpersonal issues, provided by psychologists, social workers and other licensed professionals. An EAP typically specifies the number of sessions available per year.
  • Help finding elder care or child care services.
  • Stress-management classes and life-improvement coaching.
  • Financial assistance in the form of free consultations on issues such as tax preparation and budgeting.
  • Legal assistance in the form of a free consultation of limited length.
  • Confidential drug and addiction counseling.

These services can’t substitute for a health insurance plan. They also can’t substitute for legal advice when an employee faces an employer-related problem because it creates a conflict of interest. Despite these minor limitations, EAPs can be a good idea if you want to improve morale and offer helpful services to employees.

Setting up an EAP can be a win-win for you. Your employees can feel freer to discuss their problems knowing that their consultations and sessions are confidential, and they’ll be less distracted at work, resulting in greater morale and productivity.

Stephanie Dwilson has extensive experience providing expertise on topics including health, law and marketing. She’s a science journalist published by Fox News, a marketing expert and an attorney with expertise in personal injury law. She’s also a small business expert featured by Businessweek and Millionaire Blueprints magazine.