The world is not the same today as it was just a few weeks ago. Business and school closures, extreme market volatility, self isolation, social distancing, restricted travel, restricted gatherings…it seems like every day we are being bombarded with more news about the Covid19 pandemic, and at times it can be difficult to process it all. We are facing a serious public health threat. People are urged to stay home, self isolate, work from home, and at the same time take care of their kids and elderly. It seems that we are being pulled in so many directions all at the same time. We are hearing words like “unprecedented times”, everywhere. Stress, fear, anxiety, grief, uncertainty of what comes next – there is a rollercoaster of emotions that employees coping with COVID-19 may be experiencing.
How can employers provide help to employees coping with COVID-19?
Fortunately, employers can turn to their employee benefits program to help support employees’ wellness. The majority of employee benefit plans have a component called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Plan members and their families can access their EAP for support for both personal and workplace related issues and concerns. Now is a great time to remind staff about EAP’s and how to access these services.
What type of issues can EAP help with?
EAP’s provide 24/7 counselling, resources, and coaching services on a wide range of topics related to both mental and physical health such as stress, anxiety, depression, relationships (family, work), dependent care, parenting, disability, bereavement, addiction, nutrition, weight management, sleep management and more. Employees and their families can connect with a counsellor via many modalities including phone, online and video teleconferencing.
Employees can also access legal and financial services. Legal services usually include a 30 minute consultation with an attorney either in person or over the phone, on a variety of topics and concerns, such as for example tenancy law, separation and divorce, and more. Financial services allow plan members to obtain independent financial advice and tools, on topics such as financial planning, debt management, or retirement.
It is common for EAP’s include a trauma service where traumatic event counselling can be provided individually or in a group setting, if and when it is needed.
EAP’s can also help employees with information on various topics such as finding childcare or elder care for example.
Team members who are in leadership roles and business owners can access manager support that can provide guidance and assistance in a situation such as lay offs for example.
The good news is that most EAP’s providers have mobilized to deliver most of their services digitally in order to accommodate social distancing restrictions.
How does EAP usage impact your benefit costs?
EAP’s are typically either fully or partially pooled, depending on the size of the employee group. For small businesses EAP’s are usually fully pooled which means that utilization has minimal impact on your benefit premiums. A win-win for both employees coping with COVID-19 and employers!
Additional information about EAP’s is available in our blog on how employee assistance programs work. If you’d like to learn more about how employers can support their teams in these difficult times, please get in touch with us, we would be happy to help!