Employee Assistance Plans (EAP)

Happy Employees(EAPs) are programs offered by many employers. EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members.

Employees and their household members may use EAPs to help manage issues in their personal lives. EAP counselors typically provide assessment, support, and referrals to additional resources such as counselors for a limited number of program-paid counseling sessions. The issues for which EAPs provide support vary, but examples include:

  • substance abuse
  • emotional distress
  • major life events, including births, accidents and deaths
  • health care concerns
  • financial or non-work-related legal concerns
  • family/personal relationship issues
  • work relationship issues
  • concerns about aging parents

An EAP’s services are usually free to the employee and their household members, having been pre-paid by the employer. In most cases, an employer contracts with a third-party company to manage its EAP. Some of these companies rely upon other vendors or contracted employees for specialized services to supplement their own services, such as: financial advisors, attorneys, travel agents, elder/child care specialists, and the like.

Confidentiality is maintained in accordance with privacy laws and ethical standards.

Benefits for employers

Some studies indicate that offering EAPs may result in various benefits for employers, including lower medical costs, reduced turnover and absenteeism, and higher employee productivity.

Critics of these studies question the scientific validity of their findings, noting small sample sizes, lack of experimental control groups, and lack of standardized measures as primary concerns. Proponents, however, argue that the consistency of positive findings across studies in different service sectors denote at least some positive effect of programs, even if the most effective components of such programs have not been determined.

EAPs may also provide other services to employers, such as supervisory consultations, support to troubled work teams, training and education programs, and critical incident services.

The provision of employee assistance services has established business benefits, including increased productivity of employees (termed “presenteeism”) and decreased absenteeism.

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