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Employee assistance programs: How do I select the best one?

We all encounter hardships. Some we see coming, while others take us completely by surprise. From family and financial issues, to depression and anxiety, personal problems can take a remarkable, if little-discussed, toll on productivity in the workplace. In fact, lost productivity and absenteeism together cost organizations close to USD 312 billion annually. Given this sobering statistic, plummeting business performance is not something to ignore. To that end, today’s article focuses on employee assistance programs (EAPs) as a key tool for supplementing employee benefits.

What exactly is an employee assistance program?

In a perfect world, employees are able to separate their personal problems from their professional lives. But, in reality, personal hardships can permeate into the workplace, putting a strain on productivity and overall performance. Fortunately, increased awareness of the link between productivity and wellbeing has led to a surge in demand for EAPs, which provide support for struggling employees.

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In a nutshell, employee assistance programs are worksite programs used by large and small businesses alike to help employees resolve personal issues that have a negative impact on their performance.

First introduced over 80 years ago to combat the impact of employee alcohol and drug abuse on bottom-line productivity, modern day EAPs have evolved to tackle a plethora of concerns confronted by employees today, such as:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Depression and other mental illness
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Financial difficulties
  • Relationship problems
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Everyday concerns
  • Childcare
  • Dependent adult care
  • Grief and loss
  • And more

Types of EAP services

A full-service EAP should offer a number of comprehensive, integrated services that meet the needs of the organization, as well as those of employees and their dependents. According to the UK EAP Association, critical components companies should look for in an EAP include:

  • 24 hour crisis hotline
  • Confidential assessment and counselling services
  • Care referral support, tracking, and follow-up
  • Emergency intervention
  • Substance abuse expertise
  • Dependent coverage
  • Guaranteed confidential recordkeeping

In addition to the above, other popular EAP services include individual work/life coaching, wellness promotion programs, management consultation services, wellness seminars, e-support resources, on-site support services, and more.

The value of employee assistance programs

According to the 2016 SHRM Employee Benefits report, 77% of surveyed US employers offered an EAP. Generally inexpensive and unobtrusive, employee assistance programs have long been used by organizations to cut costs, reduce risks, and provide a helping hand to employees. On an organizational level, selecting the right EAP can have a positive, measurable impact on:

  • Employee turnover: Did you know that 53% of employees quit their jobs because they didn’t think their employer cared enough about them?
  • Group health insurance claims: A US-based study by McDonnell Douglas Corporation found that employee health insurance claims per case averaged USD 715 less for EAP clients.
  • Mental health claims: A Campbell Soup Company study found that EAP implementation resulted in a significant decrease in mental health costs as a percentage of total medical costs (from 11.5% to 6.7%).
  • Return on investment: The right EAP plan can generate significant return on investment (ROI). E.g., a study by McDonnell Douglas Corporate noted an ROI of 4:1.
  • Workers’ compensation claims: According to MediFast, EAP can reduce workers’ compensation claims by 30%.
  • Morale: Employees appreciate access to free, confidential services, and will likely appreciate their employer’s commitment to supporting their well-being.

How to select the best employee assistance program

While some larger organizations choose to keep all aspects of their EAP in-house, many employers choose to purchase services from EAP providers (e.g. Four Dimensions in Hong Kong), or major group health insurance providers that offer ancillary EAP packages at an additional cost. As employee assistance programs come in many different varieties, it can be hard to navigate your choices without the help of an employee benefits advisor.

To ensure that you’re selecting the best support program for your organization, you might want to consider the following questions:

What’s the cost structure?

Costs can vary from program to program, types and extent of services offered, and method of calculating charges. EAPs should not only disclose what’s covered in the contracted fee, but also any additional charges for counselling, administration, etc.

Is there a guarantee of privacy?

All client records should be kept completely confidential and protected, and kept separate from health insurance records.

Who are the counsellors?

Counsellors who have expertise in a wider range of areas offer employees greater choice and can better meet their diverse needs.

Will you receive useful communication?

Providers should send regular updates on their program’s effectiveness in helping your company reach agreed-upon productivity goals.

How well does the EAP fit with my employees’ needs?

It’s important to consider how helpful an EAP will be to your employees and the productivity of your business. To ensure that te program fits the needs of your staff, begin with a committee consisting of managers, HR, and other leaders in your company to discuss possible benefits, costs, and the type of EAP (internally or externally administered) that you are looking to implement.

Seeking help from an employee benefits and wellness specialist

From the above, it is clear that the right EAP can generate a myriad of advantages for your organization and staff. With that said, finding the right program can be challenging, which is why seeking help from an employee benefits specialist, like Pacific Prime, can put you ahead of the rest by ensuring that you get the best EAP to fit your company, and the specific needs of your staff.

As the broker of choice for over 3,000 corporate clients worldwide, we leverage our decades of expertise to guide our clients along their path toward obtaining the most sustainable employee benefits solutions, at the most optimal price. Contact us today to get started, and get answers to all your questions.

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Jess

Content Strategist at Pacific Prime
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.
Jess