EAPs now offer an amazing range of services. But these must be adequately communicated to employees.
There are few workplace facilities that have seen the services they offer mushroom and the charges they make disappear quite like employee assistance programmes (EAPs).
The original function of an EAP, which still remains very much a core attraction, was to provide employees with free and confidential stress counselling – either via a 24/7 telephone help-line or via face-to-face sessions.
The approach, which can involve employees picking up the phone proactively or being referred by line managers, has always been particularly valuable in preventing early-stage stress-related problems from developing into full-blown absenteeism issues.
But most EAPs now provide so much more in addition. They can offer employees everything from debt counselling and advice on moving house or dealing with elderly parents to critical incident support.
Examples of the latter include support in the event of an employee’s suicide or sudden death or if members of the workforce witness a terrorist or other traumatic incident.
Getting counselling via the NHS at such short notice would be very difficult.
But an EAP provider may be able to bring in a crisis team to run both group and personal sessions. It might even set up a remembrance book – in which people can write their thoughts and memories – to be given to the loved ones of the colleague who has passed away. (1*)
Indeed, I sometimes wonder if there is anything an EAP can’t do! A Chase de Vere consultant once told me how a former colleague of his had even used one for advice on how to adopt a child from China. The service came back within 24 hours with full details of all the procedures involved and the individual concerned now has two Chinese daughters. (2*)
Furthermore, services are no longer just confined to employees. Many EAPs now allow partners or close family members to access them for help with matters like money worries, bereavement or serious illness – and the assistance they receive also indirectly benefits the employee.
Additionally, line managers can now commonly use them both to deal with their own issues and to seek advice on how to handle employees.
At one time most of these bells and whistles were only available on stand-alone EAPs, which involve an extra charge. But they have become commonly incorporated within EAPs offered as added-value features on group income protection, life cover, private medical insurance (PMI) and health cash plans.
Indeed, there has become increasingly little to choose between the add-on and stand-alone formats. So, many employers have access to an extensive suite of EAP services without having to pay a penny extra.
But, whether you have a stand-alone or added-value EAP, it’s important to understand that its effectiveness will depend heavily on the extent to which you promote it to your workforce.
Effective promotion can make the difference between a take-up rate of only 2% to 5% and one of over 20% – which may equate to optimum usage because not everyone will need access in any one year.
The most forward-looking employers nowadays are embracing impressive digital technology to promote EAPs. They can use anything from Twitter and Facebook to videos on YouTube.
However, this need for promotion tends to be most commonly overlooked when the EAP is an added-value feature, because employers can be inclined to regard its provision as merely a tick-box exercise.
At Chase de Vere we make constant efforts to ensure that clients communicate and regularly re-communicate the benefits of EAPs. For example, we promote them as part of the onboarding procedures when new employees join firms, using seminars or one-to-one sessions.
We can do further ad-hoc communications programmes as well. These may be in response to a specific traumatic event where an EAP can provide invaluable support, like an employee death, but we also find that communicating the benefits of EAPs generally is a very effective and low-cost way for an employer to engage with its workforce.
(1*) (2*) Corporate Adviser feature.