Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) help employees by providing access to services around medical concerns, caring for an elderly parent, financial stress, mental health, substance abuse and more. EAPs can also include other services, such as nurse advice telephone access, basic legal assistance and referrals to lawyers and adoption assistance. Most EAPs are free for employees and even available for use by members of an employee's household.
The Benefits of EAPs
Personal issues can impact an employee's performance and productivity. EAPs can be a great resource for counseling or referrals that can help employees. EAPs can even assist to minimize the cost of your health insurance plan because they help employees prevent and avoid stress-related illnesses, meaning fewer trips to the doctor, according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy. EAPs are thus a proactive tool for mitigating health risks for employees and organizations alike.
Why EAPs Are Underutilized
Despite their availability and effectiveness, only 6.9 percent of employees took advantage of EAPs in 2015, while EAP utilization rates have historically remained in the single digits, according to Chestnut Global Partners.
In general, employees may fear stigmatization if they reach out for help, which can be worse among men, according to Smart Business. Concerns around employee privacy and confidentiality may also play a role in why EAPs are underutilized. But it's worth emphasizing that EAPs work independently of an employer and its HR department, so using one is actually completely confidential for an employee. But remember, EAPs should be viewed as part of your overall benefits strategy. So you must ensure that EAPs are factored into the complex compliance requirements, such as COBRA and the written plan document requirement.
How to Increase the Use of EAPs
Here are five things to let employees know when communicating with them about EAPs.
- They're available. Communicate to your employees that your EAP program is available to help them with personal or work-related issues. You might even invite your EAP provider to give a presentation or brown bag "lunch and learn" where they explain the EAP's services.
- They're confidential. Make it clear that the use of EAPs is not shared with supervisors or HR.
- They're wide-ranging. EAPs can address a range of personal, stress-inducing concerns such as child care, eldercare, identity theft, finance-related stress, substance abuse, work-life balance and more. The range of services offered by EAPs continue to grow, according to the Sociery for Human Resource Management.
- They're free. Encourage employees to take advantage of this free resource and get help overcoming any kind of stress.
- They can save lives. When employees seek help regarding personal issues like substance abuse and mental health, it can save their lives. EAP interventions help employees cope with stress and the negative health risks associated with it.
Increasing employee utilization of your EAP can be a win-win for your organization and employees. You'll need a communication strategy to explain the benefits of EAPs, emphasize their confidential nature in an effort to destigmatize their use and proactively encourage employees to access help whenever personal issues may be impacting their workplace performance.
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