Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are one of the most effective ways to deal with alcohol and other drug problems in the workplace. An effective EAP provides confidential assistance with problems that interfere with an employee’s ability to function on the job efficiently and safely through prevention, identification, assessment and referral, and follow-up services. Many times immediate family members can also access services, and the programs are titled Employee and Family Assistance Programs or EFAPs.

Corporations and small businesses are turning increasingly to EAPs to deal with employees’ substance abuse and other personal problems. All sizes and types of employers have instituted EAPs because an EAP can help save money in terms of less absenteeism, fewer accidents, decreased use of medical and insurance benefits, savings in workers’ compensation claims, fewer grievances and arbitrations, and fewer employee replacement costs. An EAP reinforces three important ideas:

  1. Employees are a vital part of a business and valuable members of the team.
  2. It is better to offer assistance to employees experiencing personal problems than to discipline or fire them.
  3. Recovering employees become productive and effective members of the work force.

Almost any company can provide EAP services for its employees. Many companies, unions, and other organizations have established their own programs at the worksite. Some organizations may find it easier to contract for EAP services from an outside EAP provider. Smaller companies may join with other companies in a consortium or cooperative arrangement, or work with a local business or trade association to start an EAP for its membership.

Types of EAPs

Internal or In-House Programs: These are most often found in large companies with substantial resources. The EAP staff is employed by the organization and works on-site with employees.

Fixed-Fee Contracts: Employers contract directly with an EAP provider for a variety of services, e.g., counseling, employee assessment, and educational programs. Fees are usually based on the number of employees and remain the same regardless of how many employees use the EAP.

Fee-for-Service Contracts: Employers contract directly with an EAP provider, but pay only when employees use the services. Because this system requires employers to make individual referrals (rather than employees self-referring), care must be taken to protect employee confidentiality.

Consortia: An EAP consortium generally consists of smaller employers who join together to contract with an EAP service provider. The consortium approach helps to lower the cost per employee.

Peer-Based Programs: Less common than conventional EAPs, peer–or coworker-based EAPs have been put in place in a number of unionized workplaces; trained volunteers give education and training, and assist troubled employees to find appropriate resources for their problem. This type of program requires considerable education and training for employees.

Key Questions and Answers about EAP/EFAPs

What is an EAP? An Employee Assistance Program (EAP or EFAP) is an employer-sponsored benefit that provides confidential, professional counselling and advisory services for employees and their immediate family members. EAP provide access to services provided by a variety of professionals including psychologists, social workers, and addiction specialists. This highly confidential service is designed to assist employees who are experiencing personal difficulties that often affect work performance.

What Benefits do EAPs provide? EAPs are important tools in the development and maintenance of a healthy and productive workforce, and add value to the organization. An EAP assists employees by acting as a prevention and treatment resource for individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties. It is commonly accepted that individuals suffering from stress related to personal problems can have a negative impact on the workplace.

The EAP provides an opportunity for troubled individuals to seek confidential professional assistance before problems escalate to the point where the individual’s performance declines and before he/she impacts workplace productivity and safety. Moreover, a workforce of psychologically and emotionally stable employees can result in less absenteeism, turnover, disability claims, and worker’s compensation claims while improving employee morale.

How does an EAP work? Normally employees can access assistance whenever they want – 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by telephone. This call will be answered by a professional Intake Counsellor who will ask for some basic information, discuss the individual’s concerns, and match him/her to a qualified counsellor in the community. If the nature of the call is deemed to be urgent, immediate telephone counselling will ensue.

Employee Assistance professionals are also trained to guide workplace supervisors and other key personnel in assisting a distressed employee. An added feature of the EAP is the availability of trauma response services in the event of a workplace critical incident.

What kind of problems are covered?

  • couple and marital relationships
  • work-related and career issues
  • depression
  • misuse of alcohol and drugs
  • family matters
  • stress and anxiety
  • bereavement
  • critical incident stress debriefing

Employee Assistance Programs — Features and Benefits

Interest Group Feature Benefit
Employee Early identification of problems. Reduces the impact of chronic illness and increases chance of recovery.
  Provides comprehensive referral services for alcoholism, alcohol and substance abuse, emotional problems, as well as secondary problems, mental illness and other problems. Increases chance that the primary problems as well as secondary problems will be addressed.
  Provides for referral to EAP based on deteriorating job performance. Increases access to program services delivered by trained staff thereby discourages management and labor from diagnosing.
  Insures confidential handling of personal problems. Decreases chances that stigmatizing will occur and lessens chances of negative impact on future promotions and job security.
  Promotes health-cost containment. Intervention at the earliest stage of an illness promotes family health.
  Makes self-referral available to families and employees who wish to take advantage of the program on their own. Intervention at the earliest stage of an illness promotes family health.
Interest Group Feature Benefit
Employer Reduces absenteeism. Additional employee hours available for production.
  Improves quality of work. Increases chance of producing higher quality and more marketable products.
  Eliminates inappropriate utilization of health care benefits. Reduces cost of benefits.
  Complements existing health services. Increases scope of health services without increasing costs.
  Reduces number of accidents. Reduces sickness, injuries and workers’ compensation costs.
  Demonstrates employers’ commitment to employees. Improves morale.
Interest Group Feature Benefit
Union Reduces absenteeism, accidents and health care cost. More dollars for member salaries and benefits.
  Increases quality of work. More job protection.
  Provides for early intervention and access to appropriate treatment. Increases health of members and families.
  Reduces need for employee discipline. Reduces the costs of arbitration.
  Incorporates a mechanism for union participation. Increases involvement of unions in representing members.
Interest Group Feature Benefit
Society Increases chances of identifying and treating primary and secondary problems by early intervention and family involvement. Reduces the cost of alcohol, substance abuse and other problems to society by identifying the real problem and providing treatment earlier.