More and more employers are offering help to their staff in the form of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). 79 percent of companies in the U.S. offer EAPs to help employees better deal with things like stress and anxiety.
Employee Assistance Programs
An EAP is a broad term referring to employer-funded programs that provide a variety of services to employees beyond what their health insurance does. EAPs have been around since the 1940s to help workers manage issues like substance abuse, family trauma, and financial concerns.
EAPs vary in size and scope, depending on what an individual employer decides to offer its workers. Typically, an employer contracts with an outside vendor like Lifeworks.com to provide support programs and mental health services.
There is no cost to the employees, and their participation is strictly voluntary. The services provided by an EAP are often available to the employee’s immediate family, as well as to the employee.
EAPs are not the same as wellness programs which often allow employees to earn incentives for participating in health screenings and other programs.
What Services Do EAPs Offer?
EAPs are offered to employees as a way to help them deal with a broad spectrum of mental health issues. An EAP might include support for issues like:
- Substance abuse
- Family issues
- Psychological disorders
Some employers have expanded their EAP services to include financial literacy programs, elder care assistance, and adoption guidance. The driving force behind EAPs is the concept that employees who are effectively managing personal issues are more productive at work.
The numbers back that up. Absenteeism and tardiness, along with a general lack of focus, cost U.S. employers nearly $300 billion a year. Faced with statistics like that, most employers now realize they can’t afford not to provide an EAP.
EAPs and Confidentiality
The issue of privacy is one of the most common reasons employees give for not using the services provided by their employer. Understandably, they worry about how much information might be shared with their boss.
In most cases, an employee’s privacy is protected by law. For example, federal law requires confidentiality in issues related to alcohol and drug abuse. So, an EAP provider isn’t allowed to release any information or provide any records without the signed consent of the person being treated.
Additionally, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ensures that an employee’s use of the EAP can’t be connected to his health insurance to satisfy a deductible or reduce a copay.
In the insurance world, this is often referred to as “gatekeeping”. An EAP can’t be used as a gatekeeper. In other words, an employee cannot be forced to use a service provided by an EAP before he’s allowed to use his insurance.
Long-Term Benefits of an EAP
The services provided by Employee Assistance Programs are also helping organizations prevent and cope with violence in the workplace and other emergency response situations. In fact, for every dollar invested in an EAP, employers save between $5 and $16.
We hope you’ll check out our blog for more great business-related information.