The Employee Assistance Program: A Priceless "After-Thought"
By Merrick Dresnin Chief People Services Officer, Cote Family Destinations | July 2020
In challenging times, employees are faced with multiple hurdles to overcome. They may have no idea whom to turn to or where to go. They may come to the Company for help. As seasoned as the HR professional or CEO may be, dealing with – divorces, suicides, natural disasters, or pandemics – are likely not in their wheelhouse of problem-solving. It is in these times that the HR professional needs to dig through his/her files or e-mails to find the contact information for the company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Visit HR, and you will see the small business cards with the EAP 800-number, or a flier laying around with the EAP's website. Why even have an EAP? It is important to have a general idea what an EAP provides. According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA):
EAPs serve organizations and their employees in multiple ways, ranging from consultation at the strategic level about issues with organization-wide implications to individual assistance to employees and family members experiencing personal difficulties. . . In general, an EAP is a set of professional services specifically designed to improve and/or maintain the productivity and healthy functioning of the workplace and to address a work organization's particular business needs through the application of specialized knowledge and expertise about human behavior and mental health.(EAPA, 2016)
Thus, an EAP helps organizations tackle personal matters detrimentally affecting employee productivity. Such a program is unique in its ability to deal with matters company officials generally should not touch – matters that are occurring outside of work. When one is not sure where to turn, what to do, or how to help employees get back on track, EAP fills that gap and provides answers to questions that seem without answer.
Despite EAP's tremendous value in providing a need that companies cannot, it is rarely a key point of discussion when renewing benefits. Companies work with their brokers to negotiate good rates on medical insurance, dental, vision, long/short term disability. Multiple conversations may occur between the company and the broker, until the health costs are palatable. Focus is placed on medical plan utilization, plan deductibles, catastrophic claims, passing on costs to participants, etc. Once brokers provide company clients with medical costs, attention is then turned fleetingly to dental insurance, vision and ancillary benefits such as short and long-term insurance/disability.
Perhaps the broker may find a bone to throw with pet insurance or some other trendy benefit employees might find of interest. When everything is ready to be wrapped up in a pretty bow for presentation to the CFO and CEO, there might be mention of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP - always an afterthought, and never the focus.