Creating an Employee Assistance Program

As an employer, you want to have healthy and happy people working for you. You care for them and their well-being, but you also need them to be productive. When an addiction rears its ugly head in the workplace, the consequences can be devastating. It can cause an increase in health care costs, lost productivity, and in the worst case scenario, a devastating accident on the job that may result in injuries or even death. To help your employees and to keep your workplace as safe as possible, consider establishing an employee assistance program or EAP.

What is an EAP?

An EAP is a program that you, as the employer, pay for through a health insurer or another third party administrator. The purpose of the program is to help your employees maintain a healthy work and life balance. The program focuses on personal problems, mental health, emotional health, and general well-being. It is offered free to your employees. Some of the specific issues that your EAP can help employees deal with in an emotionally healthy way are:

  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal troubles
  • Family conflicts
  • Major, life-altering events such as deaths, births, traumatic accidents
  • Relationship problems
  • Drug and alcohol abuse and dependence
  • Issues at work
  • Psychological disorders

Keep in mind that the EAP does not necessarily solve these problems. For instance, it is not there to get an employee out of a financial crisis. Rather, the program is designed to help your workers cope with these problems that can arise in a healthy and productive manner.

How does the EAP work?

If you establish an EAP for your employees, it will offer them services in several different ways. This can depend also upon the administrator of your particular program. Typically, employees can receive assistance by contact with counselors either over the phone or in person. Phone calls are not usually restricted, but face-to-face meetings can be limited to a certain number per person. Employees will also have access to online resources such as tools that help them learn more about their problems and to cope with their difficulties.

A very important aspect of any EAP is that it is confidential. Even though you or your company is paying for the program, privacy is critical for your workers to receive the best care. A worker may use EAP services without you knowing about it or having any idea what the issues are. You may also refer an employee to the EAP if you believe they need assistance and could benefit from the program.

What are the benefits of creating an EAP?

EAPs have been shown in studies to have numerous benefits in the workplace. It can lower the costs of medical care by addressing mental and substance abuse issues. It reduces turnover because as the employer, you have an alternative to firing an employee. Absenteeism drops with EAPs and productivity rises because employees are happier, healthier, and more balanced. There have been some criticisms of EAPs, but any negatives can be largely avoided when the program is run by an outside party. Issues of bullying or targeting employees may become a problem when the company itself runs the EAP.

While the EAP is designed to address a wide variety of issues, it can be especially helpful when addiction is an issue with one or more of your employees. Substance abuse is especially detrimental in the workplace because addicts tend to lose focus, care less about the quality of their work, and miss time on the job. An EAP can even help family members of employees. If a worker has a child or spouse that is abusing alcohol or drugs, it can affect their performance at work. The EAP is available to the employee and the affected family member.

How to start an EAP

To start an EAP for your company, begin with a committee to discuss the matter. Because it will be costing you money, it is important to consider how helpful an EAP will be to the productivity of your business. Include human resources and other leaders and managers in your company in the discussion. You can discuss the possible benefits, the costs, and the type of EAP, internally – or externally-administered, that you may implement.

Following the initial discussion, research several different companies that can administer your EAP. Although creating an internal EAP is an option, there are criticisms of such programs. It can lead to leaks in privacy and targeting of individuals by bosses or managers. A third party can ensure partiality and confidentiality. Once you have selected a program, make sure inform your employees of the new service available to them. Outline all the services provided and how they can seek help. Be sure that they understand that their use of the EAP will be private.

With a well-administered EAP, you can increase your company’s productivity and make certain that your workers are healthy, happy, and have every chance at overcoming difficulties like addiction and substance abuse.

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