As strategic Orlando Human Resources business consultants we are often asked: “Can you please tell me what an Employee Assistance Program is all about and do we need one at our company?” The short answer is that an Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) is an employee safety net providing resources typically not found in traditional employee medical benefit programs. Whether your company needs such a resource depends upon the issues that are surfacing and the impact upon the employees and productivity.
EAPs in their current form have been around for the past 30 years. The typical model is that the company contracts with a third party that is able to provide a bundle of quality skilled assistance programs to the employee and his/her dependants on a confidential basis. Typically, the employee reaches out to the EAP on an 800 number for assistance on family matters, financial issues, alcohol or substance dependancy issues or other issues that are interfering with his/her workplace productivity and life’s enjoyment. The employee and/or family members can receive the counseling and intervention needed on a confidential basis to assist in the recovery process. Sometimes a manager will recognize that an employee seems to be struggling at work and can refer the employee to the EAP for assistance without having to get involved with issues beyond the manager’s expertise. Other times, if an issue such as too much alcohol consuption is admitted by the employee, the manager will put the employee on a performance management plan that includes confidential intervention by the EAP.
Do we endorse the EAP concept? Yes, we do. We have seen many highly effective EAPs in a number of different work envoronments. And today, when so many employees are struggling with issues of debt, bankruptcy, retirement financial security, and family conflict the EAP can be a great asset to both the company and the employee. EAPs are generally a low-cost yet high results proposition. And they can make a real difference in reducing turnover and recruitment and training costs. Yet the biggest reward is when an employee says: “Thank you. This has changed my life.”