What is an Employee Assistance Program?

How it can support your staff

3 min read

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

An EAP, or Employee Assistance Program is a common inclusion in most group benefits plans. An Employee Assistance Program provides confidential counselling, educational resources, and referral services to employees and their dependents, and is an important part of supporting employee mental and financial health and wellness, and much more.  Plan members can access their Employee Assistance Program for support with a wide range of issues – both personal, and workplace related. An Employee Assistance Program is a fantastic resource that can provide both preventative and responsive help for your team. Read on to find out more about the benefits of an EAP, EAP confidentiality, how you can let your Employees know exactly what is an Employee Assistance Program, and how it can help them.

What types of services does an EAP include?

Employee Assistance Programs vary in their offerings, but can contain a wide range of support resources and services to help you with a variety of issues.  In your personal life, your EAP can provide resources to support you with challenges like:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Bereavement
  • Financial planning
  • Health habits
  • Addiction
  • Physical health tips
  • Legal issues
  • Moving
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Parenting
  • Aging
  • Disability
  • Stress
  • Mental health
  • And more! 

When it comes to the workplace, your EAP can offer resources to help you:

  • Navigate and improve workplace relationships
  • Transition into management roles
  • Develop new workplace skills
  • And more

These days, most EAPs offer online resources for you to read, watch, or listen to on your own time; they also offer counselling lines and services for direct support. And most services are available 24/7!

EAP Confidentiality

A lot of people may feel worried about exposing their life challenges to a service provided through their employer. However, EAP confidentiality is strict!  It has to be, or no one would use it.  Since an EAP is part of your benefits plan, it will be provided by a company completely separate from your own.  When an employee accesses services, the EAP service provider will create a file on the employee’s issues; however, this information is for the sole purpose of providing support, and is never shared with the employer.  

It’s true that in some cases, an employee may be referred to the EAP service; so what happens to EAP confidentiality in these scenarios?  If an employee has revealed a challenge to their manager who then suggests they use the EAP, of course, the manager will have some idea of the situation; however, anything revealed through use of the EAP will be confidential, and the referral will not be included in the employee file.  

In rare cases, an employee may receive a mandatory referral due to a performance issue.  In this scenario the employer might receive confirmation that the employee has accessed the service; however, the support they receive and the information the employee reveals to the EAP service will continue to remain confidential.

Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs

There are a lot of benefits of Employee Assistance Programs, to your staff and your business.  Employee’s personal and workplace challenges can both lead to higher absenteeism, lost productivity, and staff turnover.  The support offered by an EAP is there to help employees resolve these issues; it can help counteract impacts on their workplace performance and engagement. Since some EAPs also give preventative health tips and support; the EAP can actually prevent other health benefits usage and costs. The biggest value of an EAP is that it can help employees with their mental and emotional health and wellness; This is an invaluable reward for your staff!

Educating your Staff to Use their EAP

Employers have an important role to play in encouraging their staff to understand and use their EAP.  Make sure to provide info and resources to new employees, but also consider doing periodic training sessions about the program and what it includes to make your staff aware.  Managers should have more in depth training so that they can remind their teams to access specific services when challenges arise. It’s also a good idea to remind staff that the service is confidential, and that they can access it any time, without needing to go through any official company channels.

How to Access your EAP

Modern EAP providers are making good use of the many online tools we now have available.  This means it’s easier than ever to access support. Most companies provide a variety of options including video, phone and chat support, and online groups. Depending on your needs and your comfort with technology, you can access services through your computer, telephone, or using an App for your mobile device.  They also provide resources that you can review on your own to find solutions. Encourage staff to download their EAP App, and let them know how easy it easy to access services; this is another great way to support increased usage of EAP services.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?  Now you know! If you’d like to add an EAP to your plan, review the one you have, get more tips to educate your staff, or learn more about your options, get in touch, we’re happy to help!

Content for this post was gathered through this CCOHS resource on EAP programs, and through sharing our knowledge about the great offerings some of our EAP providers provide to our clients.