What are the benefits of an employee assistance programme (EAP)?

With 595,000 workers across the UK experiencing work-related stress, anxiety or depression, workplace wellbeing expert David Price explains how an employee assistance programme (EAP) can help.

Employee Asistance Programme EAP

What is an employee assistance programme (EAP)?

Sometimes, the pressures of work life and home life can be overwhelming. When this happens, it's good to know that you have a resource you can rely on. An employee assistance programme, or EAP, is a service that helps to lessen the effects of personal issues on workplace performance by offering guidance and advice to employees proactively and confidentially.

With the aim of increasing engagement, happiness and overall productivity, typically an EAP provides employees with free access to certain services that would otherwise leave them severely out of pocket if accessed externally.

Through the likes of counselling (telephone, online and face-to-face), an EAP aims to address and offer advice on a range of issues. These include:

  • mental health
  • physical health
  • financial difficulties
  • addiction
  • stress
  • tenancy
  • relationship problems

Why should an employer adopt an EAP in their workplace?

As well ensuring the safety and wellness of your employees, from an employer perspective, an EAP also provides management advice on important things such as:

  • management referrals
  • occupational health
  • dedicated case management
  • qualified manager support

An EAP can set out strategies for dealing with conflict in the workplace, deliver workshops at an organisation's premises, and aid in the structured return to work of employees who have had a long-term absence due to illness, both mental and physical.

According to the government review of mental health and employers, Thriving at Work, as much as £42bn is lost per year due to mental health issues. Ensuring you have a reliable, proactive solution in place means not only a return on investment, but also a positive workplace which in turn could provide an even more significant boon.

What makes a successful EAP?

A successful EAP is proactive, rather than reactive. That is, it offers preventative solutions to wellbeing problems. When an employee is suffering - perhaps with stress or with a personal issue causing depression - a well-signposted EAP can take the pressure off them. The sufferer doesn't have to discuss their problems straight away with a manager; instead, they can call a free helpline and receive immediate, actionable advice.

When individuals in an organisation are confident that problems aren't theirs to face alone, this has a knock-on effect of positivity. A worker's issues won't affect their work, meaning reduced stress for all around them.

How does an EAP work in practice?

When you take out an EAP, the provider will look at the number of employees you have in your care and will recommend the correct level of service. This means the amount of counselling available, the possibility of external workshops and training, as well as methods by which these are delivered.

Most EAPs offer structured telephone and face-to-face counselling as a basic service. They'll provide you and your managerial team with appropriate support, such as usage information (strictly anonymised so as not to breach confidentiality), literature and materials you can use to promote the service in your workplace.

About the author

David Price is CEO of Health Assured, a provider of health and wellbeing solutions. He advises employers on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, while outlining best-practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress.

See also

Leading companies sign up to mental health and wellbeing commitment

Do I need a mental health first-aider in my workplace?

Would you recognise work addiction?

Image: Getty Images