What Are Employee Assistance Programs?

An employee assistance program or EAP is a service that is offered by companies to help employees with various kinds of problems they may be having that could impact their performance at work. Most employers offer such programs.

What Kind of Help They Give

The problems could range from issues like alcohol or substance abuse to child or elder care, relationship problems, financial or legal issues, or wellness issues.

The program is offered to employees without cost by vendors who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans. The services can be offered over the phone, through counseling by video, online, or in face-to face-meetings.

Other issues that an EAP can address are health care through nurse advice lines, basic legal help and even adoption assistance. Workers and their spouses are eligible for the services.

How EAP’s Have Changed

The programs have been undergoing many changes and encompass many more services than they have in the past because companies are looking for more economical and effective ways to help their employees.

The programs now deal more often with mental health issues. They offer services to help employees handle stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance. EAP’s also help workers find tax accountants, divorce lawyers, wedding planners, and even plumbers and electricians. They are assisting people with refinancing mortgages and helping them to find suitable health care programs. The also provide financial advice and counseling to employees.

More than half of employees seeking help come to the EAP for financial advice, according to EAP officials. One survey has also reported that about 20 percent of the services are for childcare, 16 percent for elder care, 30 percent for moving issues, and 10 percent for health care.

More recently, EAP’s are also offering management training programs and assisting employers with help in dealing with problem employees.

Although the EAP’s are doing a lot more for workers, one big concern is that not many employees are using the programs. Less than 10 percent have used their services. They may not be aware of what the programs offer or are concerned about a stigma attached to using an EAP.

The scant numbers show that companies need to do more to advertise EAP’s and make employees aware what these programs can offer.

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