An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a benefit that’s generally offered at no cost (up to certain limits) to the employee. It’s essentially a way to identify and then provide assistance to employees who are facing a number of potentially significant problems – personal, marital, professional, financial, family and substance abuse. In other words, pretty much anything that can cause disengagement and a reduction in productive work. Or even put the company at risk.
According to Watson Wyatt, factors such as mental health conditions, sleep problems, stigma, and substance use and abuse affect business performance by reducing productivity and increasing both planned and unplanned absences.
EAPs give employers a referral option when managers and Human Resources staff are helping an employee deal with life and work issues that are beyond the training and scope of these workplace professionals. In many cases, a spouse or partner can also get support from an EAP and some even offer access to free or low cost legal aid and attorney referrals.
EAPs are 100 percent paid for by the employer. They are not portable benefits and they expire upon termination from the company benefits program. Smaller firms may have an EAP embedded in their health insurance; midsize to larger companies will find it’s an option that must be purchased separately.
OK, so that pretty much defines an EAP. But is it worth your investment?
A healthy addition to your benefits package that’s not health insurance
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 1 out of every 6 adults suffers from some form of mental illness. That results in as much as $50 billion in medical costs every year and that alone indicates there is a tremendous need for what an EAP can provide.
EAPs are not health insurance plans and provide no direct financial support to employees. They are complements to professional care, offering medical advice and direction to help employees and their families make important health decisions such as getting information about mental health counseling or specific health services. Some programs may also be able to provide access to specialized care, such as for elder care services, respite care support, and even free medical clinics.
EAPs provide needs assessment, help, counseling and referrals for employees and their family members. Short-term counseling and support may be all that an employee requires. For longer-term support, the EAP can provide a referral to another agency or provider. And with mental health claims on the rise – simply because more people are being diagnosed – EAPs can provide real value.
Employees are often uncomfortable talking with management about confidential matters – personal problems, mental health issues, spousal abuse – fearing they will be seen as “problems” and possibly lose their jobs.
An EAP is an investment in your employees, their stability and health, and their families. The ROI is a more engaged, productive, focused and, yes, happy employee.
Employees need to know the EAP is available, how it can help, and how to use it
It has been reported that as many as 40 percent of employees don’t even know their company offers an Employee Assistance Program.
And, all too often, EAPs appear to be under-utilized. But that’s not because employees don’t need them or don’t want to use them. It’s due to a lack of communication and education.
Employees need to be informed – repeatedly – about what the EAP program provides and how to make use of the benefits. Managers should refer employees to the EAP if they are unable to resolve a matter through on-the-job coaching and HR support. While the company may know that an employee has participated in the EAP, the employee’s specific information is never disclosed to the employer.
Marsh & McLennan Agency offers a variety of EAP options for the needs of every type of employer and we can create specific communication programs that help you make sure the employee population knows the EAP program exists, exactly what it can do for them as well as their families, and how to access it.
To learn more, contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency representative.
This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.
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