All You Need to Know About Employee Assistance Program

Shubham Shrivastava
Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. -Simon Sinek

‘Sam is absent today!’

‘But why?’

‘He’s sick, sounded a bit stressed too.’

The American Institute of Stress stated in a survey that the estimated 1 million employees get absent every day because of falling ill due to stress.

Stress isn’t just costing employees but also employers. The study also revealed that stress led to violence, increased insurance costs, diminished productivity, and even accidents in some cases.

However, a simple assistance program can ease a lot for employees and employers both.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

It is an employee benefit program that involves

  • confidential assessments,
  • assistance in personal/work-related problems via counselling, referrals, and follow-ups.

The employee’s health insurance remains untouched, and this simply means that the program doesn’t cost employees anything.

Employee assistance program providers hold a network of experienced professionals who helps in mental well-being, substance abuse, and more.

You can contract with an EAP provider in different ways, but that’s for later. Let’s understand why you need it in the first place.

Why Do You Need an Employee Assistance Program?

Bensinger, DuPont & Associates surveyed 24000 employees and found that personal issues impact employee’s work performance.

The report suggested;

  • Nearly 16 per cent of the employees accepted that the personal issues caused absenteeism and
  • Nearly 50 per cent of them reported a lack of focus due to the same issues.

However, employee replacement isn’t the solution. An employer’s annual earning can reduce by 50% in doing so.

So, what should you do as an employer?

The solution is EAP.

70.2% of participants admit in a CuraLinc’s study that their productivity shifted from lower to moderate or moderate to higher after using EAP.

Apart from improving productivity, EAPs can;

  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Lower labour disputes
  • Reduce car accidents
  • Lower insurance costs
  • Heighten employee retention
  • Improve employee engagement

Here’s what else it covers.

What Does the Program Cover?

The EAP programs have evolved in the past few years and now assist the employees in more than substance abuse. EAP counselling is no longer limited to employees and has also become available for their families.

Benefits of Employee Assistance Program Provider

Here is the benefits EAP providers cover:

Benefits of Employee Assistance Program Provider

Types of Employee Assistance Programs

Employers can contract with EAPs in many ways. Some common types of EAP programs are listed below.

Internal Programs

  • These programs allow employers to hire in-house counsellors.  
  • Large companies with concentrated employees use internal programs, and on-site availability makes EAP counselling easy for the employees.

However, Internal programs don’t get appreciated among the employees as external do. The reason is that the employees are hesitant to use EAPs because of privacy.

External/Outsourced Programs

  • It’s a regular contract-based program between the employer and the EAP provider.
  • The program allows the employees to connect using a toll-free phone number.
  • The EAP specialist will verify the details and suggest the best resources as per the employee’s geographical location.

Blended Programs

  • These programs are suitable for companies that have large and small concentrated employees at different locations.
  • The program allows the employees to use the services as they like, either in-house or via a toll-free number.    

Employee Assistance Program Cost

The EAP’s services can be customized as per the demands of the employer. And the customization has a massive role in the involved cost, the small companies with more services tend to cost more.

Generally, an EAP program can cost you as low as $10 per employee, depending upon the services offered, location, and strength of the company.

Here are the delivery models that vary your costs.

Fixed-fee Contracts: The model includes per employee cost irrespective of how many employees use its services. The employee assistance program providers also offer assessments, counselling, and educational programs with this model.

Fee-for-Service Contracts: EAP providers and employer contracts directly, and the employer pays when an employee uses the services.

Consortia: Several small employers join together and contract with an EAP provider. The model helps in reducing the cost per employee.

How to Set Up EAP?

The aim of setting up an EAP program is to experience higher employee engagement, which will ultimately lead to more productivity in an agency.

However, the results depend upon the factors that you consider (listed below) while setting up an EAP.

1. Research the Services Your Employee Needs

Researching the needs will help you in optimizing cost without losing EAP’s effectiveness.

Many companies use internal assessments and surveys and collect the data to identify their employees' needs.

For example; You can identify the average age range of your workforce and choose the services they need from collected data.

Married employees will be more likely to use marriage counselling services, and new parents will prefer child care services.

2. Research the EAP Provider

After identifying the required services, choose an EAP provider that’ll help you meet perfection.

Ask your competitors (with similar workforce) and include their recommendations to create a list of employee assistance program providers.

Now, filter the options that you’ve collected, and choose a qualified EAP based on the points listed below.

  • Consider their years of service, the number of references, and how’s their client base; the more, the better.
  • Do they provide the services you need specifically?
  • Do they provide services on-site, off-site, or both? And can they handle employees in different locations?
  • Will the services be available 24/7?
  • Does the EAP network have the respective credentials regarding health, legal issues they provide?
  • How many will free sessions be available before the employee has to pay?
  • Consider EAP’s response time when an employee contacts them.
  • What do EAP’s testimonials and reviews say about them?

Don’t forget to check the EAP providers’ list we have compiled for you in the end.

3. Promote the Program Among the Employees

The employees might not start using EAP for two reasons;

  • Confidentiality
  • Unawareness

Julie Krause, Benefits Manager - U.S. Wellness at Microsoft, mentioned once that they launched a campaign (It’s OK Not to Be OK) in May 2018. The move opened the conversation about mental health and encouraged employees to use EAP resources.

Here’s what you can do;

  • Pin the pamphlets on bulletins and on walls, where the employee can notice them frequently.
  • Tell your employees that the service will be confidential and free. You can even call your EAP provider to explain the services via the workshop.

EAP’s set up also involves a few legal issues; the considerations can save you a lot.

Employee Assistance Program Laws

Because EAP programs work closely with the employees, risks related legal issues are always involved.

In Hobson v. St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network

A paramedic sued his employer by alleging that his employment terminated because of his employer's discrimination;

(i) against his mental illness and

(ii) against his male gender

Meanwhile, the plaintiff's termination occurred because he sexually harassed her co-worker; a female nurse.

Thus, here’s what you need to be cautioned about.

1. Confidentiality

Usually, EAP doesn’t share an employee’s confidential information without their consent. The exception occurs when an employer receives an end report about the services provided for the types of problems.

The employer must not publicize the information as the breach of confidentiality invites hefty compensation. The action can also cost an employee’s reputation that may destroy his future.

2. Mandatory Referral

An EAP referral must occur with the employee’s consent, i.e. it needs to be voluntary. And when an employer mandates the referral, because of the employee’s illness, it’s termed as a mandatory referral.

In this case,

  • The employer must hold the record of decline in employee’s past performance to make his referral mandatory to an EAP provider.
  • The employer must not threaten with the employee’s termination to impose the referral. The move invites a legal action that claims discrimination by an employer on an employee’s mental illness.

Keys to Success of the Program

The success of the EAP program gets shared between employee and employer.

Besides, the factors that support success are listed below.

Management Regulated Factors

The success speaks with these two factors that management handles.

  • Awareness: Program’s awareness is key to employee participation, and active participation is the first step to the program's success.
  • Confidentiality: As we discussed earlier, employees hesitate to participate because of the confidentiality issues. You can address the issue in workshops conducted by EAP professionals.

KPI Based Factors

Active employee participation and higher ROI indicate more success. The program’s ROI can be measured by the key performance indicators listed below.

  • Improved Productivity
  • Reduced Absenteeism
  • Reduced Accidents at Workplace

Here’s what you need to do;

Create a record of the employees that used the EAP program. Track employee engagement using reduced absenteeism, accidents at the workplace, employee’s productivity, etc., under a specific time. Note the difference and compile the results at the end.

You can even appoint an in-house manager for it.

List of Employee Assistance Program Providers

Here, we have listed some EAP providers that have the highest reviews (listed more than ten) and a rating above 3.5

Conclusion

In the end, you cannot tell that your employees are stressed until their performance reflects.

Encouraging your employees to discuss their issues is the most challenging task for an employer. That’s why choosing a suitable EAP matter.

Select EAPs testimonials and reviews as deciding factors because they’ll be helping the drivers of the firm.

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