We all live busy, hectic and at times, stressful lives. Personal problems, big and small, can often interrupt our work. This can cause anything from a temporary distraction to a prolonged period of absence. An employee assistance programme can provide employees with useful advice and guidance for day-to-day enquiries. These include caring for dependents, financial support or legal services – generally anything which takes time out of the employee’s day. As well as clinical counselling and support to help cope with more serious personal issues they may be facing.


What is it?

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are becoming an increasingly common feature within employee benefit programmes. 22% of UK employers provide access to one (Ellipse Benefits Benchmark). Although originally they were typically bought directly by employers, they are now more commonly provided as an additional benefit within a group income protection policy. However they are bought, EAPs are available to employees 24/7 at no extra cost to them. They offer confidential support, information and counselling which the employee can call on as and when needed should a situation arise, as well as an everyday support service for life’s little problems.

A typical EAP would provide the following:

  • Structured clinical counselling, either face to face or via telephone/video, to help an employee deal with any personal, work and family problem they may be facing
  • Everyday work-life enquiries – support for individuals with any issues that take time out of their busy schedules – work or personal related
  • Help with dependent care
  • Legal information and support
  • Financial support and assistance, as well as debt management counselling for more serious financial problems
  • Career support, advice and coaching
  • Retail discounts – some EAPs also include access to retail discount schemes
  • Support and advice for managers, to help them deal with a challenging workplace situation
  • Support in the event of a workplace incident – some EAPs also offer a crisis support service to help deal with any major incident such as a natural disaster, corporate restructuring, or death of an employee

 

Benefits of an EAP

For the employer

As well as providing a useful benefit for employees, an EAP gives the employer a high quality, easy to access support service to help employees cope with an unexpected personal or work problem. Without which most managers would struggle to deal with on their own. It is a resource to call on in an unexpected scenario.

If an employee is struggling with their work performance due to non-work-related issues such as bereavement, substance abuse, or physical abuse, an EAP can offer clinical counselling that will help the employee deal with a specific situation. This service will also help managers to support their staff during such a scenario.

Having an EAP in place can help:

  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Enhance employee retention
  • Improve employee performance and motivation

 

For the employee

When grief, depression and stress take hold it can start to interfere with and affect an employee’s work. With access to an EAP they can get fast and confidential access to a support network of clinically trained counsellors who can provide a friendly, understanding voice and a first port of call for employees dealing with a personal crisis.

They also provide a useful everyday advice service, anything from researching local childcare providers, to getting legal information about a neighbour dispute, or help to stop smoking.

Having an EAP in place offers employees:

  • An all-inclusive approach – EAPs recognise that problems can overflow into all areas of life. Personal issues can affect work life and vice versa. Employees are able to discuss and get advice on all kinds of problems, not just those that have a direct impact on work performance.
  • Confidentiality – provided by an external organisation this ensures any issues discussed aren’t disclosed to employers. This is crucial to gain employee trust, and allow employees to raise issues that may have occurred in the workplace.
  • Accessibility – EAPs can be accessed 24/7 either online or by phone – some even have apps

 

How to get the most out of an EAP

Employers need to fully understand their EAP. Including how to access it and what services are offered. This will enable them to pass on that information and knowledge to their employees.

Communication is key – a lot of employees don’t realise they have access to an EAP. Better communication means better engagement and usage rates. This will benefit the employer in the form of a healthier, happier workforce. This will lead to lower absence rates and more productive staff. 32% of employers remind their staff about the EAP monthly, which is an ideal frequency. 15% do it weekly (Ellipse employee benefits research 2017).

 

In a nutshell

EAPs are used by all types and sizes of businesses across a variety of sectors. There is no denying an EAP is beneficial for both employers and employees, providing a useful everyday support service, along with clinical counselling and support to deal with more serious personal and work issues.

However, employers must make sure they remind their staff regularly about the benefits of the EAP, to ensure they get the best possible engagement and value from the service. Once employees are aware of their EAP, how to use it and access the services, they are more likely to seek help when they need it – and quickly.

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