employee assistance program

How an employee assistance program benefits employees

No one exists in a vacuum. Your employees will inevitably face distracting personal problems and responsibilities during their employment at your company. And while you may wish that employees could just ignore these things once they cross your threshold, that’s not always possible.

But there are ways to help your employees stay at work and stay productive during difficult times. Offering an employee assistance program (EAP) is one of them.

What is an employee assistance program?

An employee assistance program is a counseling and consultation service that usually provides confidential support, customized resources and referrals, along with practical information on many work and home-life topics.

In a typical EAP arrangement, your employees will have unlimited telephone and online support as well as a few face-to-face counseling sessions (per individual, per issue, per year).

Employee assistance program benefits

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, EAPs have been shown to contribute to:

  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced accidents and fewer workers’ comp claims
  • Greater employee retention
  • Fewer labor disputes
  • Significantly reduced medical costs arising from early identification and treatment of individual mental health and substance use issues

How does an employee assistance program work?

Typically, EAP plans are entirely subsidized by employers. They are most often associated with counseling services for troubled employees enduring difficult times such as:

  • Illness and injury
  • Minor medical emergencies
  • Relationship concerns
  • Marriage and family concerns
  • Grief and loss
  • Stress management
  • Emotional distress
  • Financial and personal legal issues

However, employee assistance programs also often provide consultation services for areas such as:

  • Wellness and nutrition
  • Choosing appropriate medical care
  • Medication information
  • Child and elder care referrals

Though offering such a plan is, obviously, entirely voluntary for employers, a growing number of employers are offering EAPs as a part of their benefits package.

In fact, 79 percent of respondents in the 2015 SHRM Employee Benefits survey reported that they provide an EAP to their employees.

Employee assistance program usage

While EAPs keep identities confidential, in most cases, you will receive a usage report from your EAP provider that shows how many employees are taking advantage of your program and how they are using it. These reports can tell you if you’re getting your money’s worth by offering an EAP.

What to know about offering an EAP

If you choose to offer an EAP, you’ll be responsible for complying with related employment laws and for communicating information about the EAP to your employees.

EAPs typically provide you with pamphlets and posters that will help your employees understand the benefits and options it offers.

Many EAPs will also send a representative to your office for a benefits open enrollment information session and/or wellness fair to talk to your employees about the program. And in some cases, an EAP may even offer the option of sending a counselor for regular onsite visits so that your employees can easily take advantage of its services.

Of course, you’d want to be sure that any EAP you select is reputable and offers services that are useful to your employees.

Finding an employee assistance program provider

If you use a benefits broker, your broker should be able to help you select a quality employee assistance program provider. In addition, EAPs are sometimes offered as a piece of the overall benefits package you select.

The EASNA, the Employee Assistance Trade Association, offers a helpful EAP purchaser’s guide and may be able to offer provider recommendations.

Typically, when you join a professional employer organization, your employees get access to extensive benefit options, which often include an EAP.

Download our free guide: HR Outsourcing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) to learn how joining a PEO can make it easier to provide your employees with the perks they’ll truly appreciate.

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