How an EAP Works

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Health Assured team

04 September 2020

Mental health is an issue gaining more awareness year on year. With a better understanding of how these issues come about, how they affect us and how to prevent them, it is important to consider them in the workplace.

Every employer in the UK has a responsibility to support any employee with their mental health struggles and promote healthy mental wellbeing.

So if you work in a human resources department or are a freelance hr professional, it is essential you look at these factors. A way to help manage this is through an employee assistance programme.

Let us look at what is expected of an employer, exactly how the employee assistance programme works (EAP), what EAP programmes offer, and why to implement one. 

What is an Employee assistance programme (EAP)?

It is a work based programme designed to help employees deal with personal problems which may affect their work performance, health and wellbeing.

It’s free for employees to use and encourages them to get assistance for any mental health challenges. The service provides your employees with a support network for their mental health and wellbeing.

The employee can self-refer themselves to the service, most have a 24.7 phone line and the operator will refer them to an EAP counsellor.

It is a confidential service, where an employee can have health assessments, short term counselling and other wellbeing services.

An employer's duty of care

It is a legal requirement for all employers to ensure the wellbeing of their employees, this is known as a ‘duty of care.’ This includes all responsibilities relating to health & safety, harassment and stress.

The UK considers some mental health issues as a disability under the legislation set out by the Employers will need to consider making reasonable adjustments to not discriminate against these people.

This makes managing employee’s mental health an important role as an employer. This is to avoid employees developing mental health issues due to workplace stress—or it aggravating something they are already suffering with.  

This is where EAPs offer you some support.

What is the purpose of the employee assistance programme (EAPs)?

These services aim to help employees deal with personal problems that might hurt their work performance, health and wellbeing.

The issues discussed are often workplace issues but do not have to be. This can be personal life issues, such as relationship or bereavement.

Ensuring an employee is equipped to deal with issues is the core focus. It is an intensive problem-solving service, aiming at getting the employee back in a sound state of mind and to perform to the best of their ability again. 

Promoting a positive internal relationship and investing in a healthy working environment contributes to higher staff engagement with the company and improved productivity from employees.

Staff members are also likely to be more loyal to your company when their health and wellbeing is priority. This, in turn, improves your employee retention rates.

Now we understand the purpose, let’s explore: how do EAP programmes work?

How does the EAP work?

EAP counselling is free to the employee and, most have a 24/7 service. The employer sets the number of sessions permitted. The service is often an intensive short-term form of counselling rather than ongoing sessions.  

There is usually a free line that an employee can call for a one-off conversation if they need a professional to confide in alongside the organised counselling sessions.

What does an employee assistance programme offer?

The specifics of the service may differ depending on the provider, but the core service will always be the same.

They will offer free health assessments, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family.

The core services consist of:

  • Counselling services: Qualified counsellors providing short-term goal-oriented counselling, allowing employees to better manage their personal and work-life commitments.
  • Critical Incident Management: A debriefing procedure to help normalise the often overwhelming psychological, physiological and emotional responses to minor, moderate and severe critical incidents.

Here at health assured, we offer these services as a standard:

Who pays for the employee assistance programme?

One thing stopping an employee addressing their mental health issues is cost. While counselling sessions can be prescribed by the NHS, there are often long waiting times and going private can be costly.

This means an employee may be unhealthy for a long period, affecting their morale and work performance. Having an employee assistance programme gives them a route to go down.

Similar to offering health insurance to employees, if you pay for your staff to have EAP services, they will be more likely to make use of things such as counselling services.

This support can help shorten the time they are affected by mental health issues, boosting their morale, teammates morale and overall productivity.

Can an employer require an EAP to be used by an employee?

Situations in which an employer may mandate the use of an EAP are rare. The Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) in its Standards and Professional Guidelines shows:

"Employees may voluntarily seek EAP assistance, or they may be referred to the EAP through constructive confrontation. Job security will not be jeopardised as a consequence of seeking or using EAP services, except where mandated by law."

You should focus on job performance whenever referring an employee to using the EAP services, with no consequences coming from non-compliance with the referral. Dismissals of those who refuse the EAP referral could result in disability discrimination claims.

Better mental health, better business success

The annual cost of mental health to employers is staggering. The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers reports that it’s as much as £42 billion a year.

So if you make an effort to boost individual mental wellbeing, how much would you be set to save per employee, per year

  • Public sector: as much as £1,878
  • Private sector: as much as £1,481

To see how much your organisation could save, speak with one of our mental health at work experts today. Call us on 0844 891 0352.

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