According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over half of the workers in the country have access to an Employee Assistance Program. In larger companies, that percentage goes even higher. But what does an EAP provide for employees, and how beneficial is it?
EAPs are typically intended for employees to use when they need to respond to a crisis or stressful situation. Most companies that offer this service use a third-party professional on a contracted basis. In most cases, the plan will provide counseling services independent of any insurance benefits and almost always at no cost to the employee. Here are some typical situations that might lead an employee to the EAP:
When the employee decides to reach out to the EAP (usually an intake specialist is the first point of contact), they can do so through a confidential phone call or sometimes an online introduction. The specialist can make appropriate referrals to more specific resources based on the issue and what assistance is needed.
When you are considering an EAP for your business, talk to your consultant at Taylor Benefits Insurance for more information. The two standard models are fixed-fee, in which the employer pays a set amount for each employee covered, and fee-for-service, in which case you would only pay when an employee used the services. In either case, the fees are usually modest. Some programs are even included as part of company-provided health insurance coverage at no extra cost to the employer or employee.
Employers may be justified in wondering if such plans are worth it since the usage is very low traditionally. In fact, even though the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that thirty percent of employee absences and two-thirds of terminations are related to employees’ personal problems, the average use of EAPs still hovers around four percent. This low usage is due to several factors, including lack of awareness and concerns over confidentiality.
Another issue cited by employees who have used the programs is quality. Sometimes employees say that the EAP refers them to counselors that are not accepting new patients or are not covered by their insurance (a problem if they need to continue care beyond the sessions offered by the EAP.) Some providers address these concerns with technology, mainly by adding teleconference and telemedicine options during the pandemic.
Some employers also use their EAP for involuntary assessment and counseling, which may contribute to the distrust found among employees. In some industries, workers who have a suspicious drug test result or behavioral problem on the job can be required to participate in an EAP referral.
One essential action is education for companies that want to increase their workers’ use of EAPs. The Society for Human Resource Professionals reports that most workers are simply unaware of the availability of this free support system or have heard of it but don’t think they have access to it. Some organizations have successfully increased the utilization rates by publicizing the programs and reassuring the workforce about the confidentiality of the services offered.
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