How Employers Can Promote Underutilized Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are typically work-based programs offering free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), while most employers offer these in their benefits packages, they often go unused for two reasons:

  1. Employees don’t know about them or understand what the benefit provides
  2. Employees feel there’s a stigma around using these services 

We know that U.S. employees are anxious, depressed, stressed or a combination of all three. We also know that employers are working to address this problem through wellness programs, more flexible scheduling and encouraging activities like meditation and yoga. However, EAPs can also be a very valuable tool. With this in mind, how can employers promote this underutilized benefit?

1. Expand or rethink the services that EAPs provide

Most employees use EAPs for legal or financial help, but counselors can also provide advice on other issues tied to everyday life. More and more, we are seeing enriched EAPs offering a broad range of services beyond just counselling including financial coaching, identity theft protection, legal services, online cognitive behavioral therapy and text therapy. Some EAPs also help refer employees to community support groups.

2. Try using technology or just a more digital, holistic approach

According to SHRM, tech solutions have been a focus of most EAPs in recent years. This means that EAPs are now “app-accessible,” which allows participants to interact with counselors online. This alleviates the issue of the shortage of mental health professionals, giving employees more options. In addition, collaboration between the EAP and your organization’s health insurer and pharmacy benefit manager could help tailor solutions toward employees that could need the EAP most.

3. Get the word out about your EAP

The SHRM article referenced makes a great point – employees won’t ask for services if they don’t know they exist. Make sure and get the word out about this underutilized benefit.

Many employees may fear confidentiality when using their EAP benefit. According to SHRM, this suspicion goes back to the 1950s, when companies developed their own treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse. However, since the 1980s, the number of internal EAPs has decreased and now, most are administered by third parties. Strict confidentiality standards make it so that both types of EAPs protect employee’s personal health information. Even in the event that an employee is mandated by the employer to contact the EAP, the EAP only reports to the company when the employee has done so, and no other details. It is important to communicate this to employees.

Employers, if you are looking for more advice on how to promote underutilized employee assistance programs (EAPs), or if you have any questions, contact the Rose & Kiernan, Inc. Employee Benefits Management Group (EBMG) here or by calling (800) 242-4433.

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