What Exactly is an Employee Assistance Program?


Employee Assistance Programs are benefit programs offered by many employers to their employees.  Employee assistance programs are generally offered in conjunction with a health insurance plan and are intended to help employees deal with personal circumstances that may impact their work performance and general quality of life.  Typically, such programs include referral services and short-term counselling for the employee (and possibly other members of their household) and are typically offered to employees free of charge.

 A company interested in providing an employee assistance program will typically purchase a pre paid plan from a third party provider.  Selecting The UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) is the professional body for such providers and may be of assistance in helping to find a provider from their list of member companies.  Alternately, employee assistance program brokers also exist that can help provide detailed cost information for a variety of plans from multiple companies.

 When considering the purchase of an employee assistance program package, one aspect to decide upon is the level of coverage.  Most providers will offer different levels of service.  While a more budget-driven employee assistance program may offer only telephone support, a full package can offer face-to-face counselling.  The size of the company will also significantly alter the available options as well.  Specific programs are available for small and medium enterprises (SMBs) that are tailored to this type of work environment rather than a larger corporate setting. 

 Employee assistance programs not only offer an attractive benefit for employees, they also offer tangible return on the investment to the employer.  Employee assistance programs can significantly reduce staff absenteeism, one study showed a reduction of 25-50%, as well as a far reduction in work related symptoms and sicknesses This report indicated that an investment in employee assistance programs creates six to ten times the savings to the company. Levels of substance abuse are reduced and job satisfaction will rise measurably.  Employee assistance programs are also a marketable benefit to be presented to prospective hires.  Employee assistance programs also retain employees who are struggling through difficult and often temporary periods in their lives, and thus tends to create fewer vacancies to fill through an expensive recruiting and hiring process. 

Employers should be aware that their enterprise will need to be aware of the data that can be provided by an employee assistance program.  As employee assistance services are only offered on a confidential basis, individual data about employee use is not possible or desirable.  This would defeat the purpose of any such system as employees would be too fearful to use it!  However, this does not mean that your employee assistance program cannot be monitored and held accountable for results.  Aggregate data can and should be solicited from the program regarding usage and satisfaction.  Employees should have the opportunity to provide feedback and a review of the process in order to insure that the investment is working.  Consult with any prospective provider to see what they offer to employers in this area.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit http://www.pinnacleproactive.com



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