Employee Assistance Program: Everything you Need to Know

Employee Assistance Program: Everything you Need to Know

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are employer-sponsored programs to help employees deal with personal or work-related problems that might negatively impact their job performance, health, and well-being. EAPs offer counseling, referrals to mental health professionals, legal and financial advice, and wellness programs. They aim to provide employees with the support they need to address their issues before they become more severe and affect their work performance or personal life. EAPs are usually confidential and available to all employees at no cost.

The well-being of employees is a top priority for organizations. Many companies have implemented Employee Assistance Programs because they understand the significance of supporting their workforce's mental and emotional health. Employee Assistance Programs provide various services that help employees navigate personal and work-related challenges. They're designed to create a workplace where employees can thrive, fostering a happier and healthier environment.

One of the biggest criticisms surrounding EAPs is their low utilization rates. According to Mannion (2004), Employee Assistance Programs have not fully lived up to their potential because there hasn't been enough focus on the role of management in integrating and supporting EAPs within the workplace. Despite being offered by more than 97% of large companies in America, only about 6.9% of North American employees take advantage of EAP services.

There's an ongoing debate regarding the limited research and knowledge about Employee Assistance Programs in specific contexts. For instance, a recent study conducted by Long & Cooke in 2022 sheds light on the insufficient research on the effectiveness of EAPs in China. This lack of research restricts our understanding of how well EAPs work and how they can be effectively implemented in diverse cultural and organizational settings.

While there are some challenges surrounding Employee Assistance Programs, they also have significant benefits in improving employee well-being and work-life balance. A systematic review of quantitative studies found that EAP use was associated with increased productivity, engagement, and life satisfaction and reduced absenteeism and workplace distress.

Overall, while more research is needed, current studies suggest that EAPs can be beneficial and effective in improving employee well-being.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program is an initiative employers provide designed to support employees in resolving personal problems that may adversely affect their work performance and well-being. EAPs offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counselling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees with personal or work-related problems. EAPs have been around since the 1940s and have evolved to solve drug, mental, and emotional health issues.

While EAPs primarily address mental health concerns, they also extend their support to other areas of employees' lives. A study found that this approach aims to enhance employees' well-being, improving job satisfaction, productivity, and retention rates.

Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs


Employee Assisted Programs offer many benefits to both employees and employers. Here is a list of some benefits Employee Assistance Programs offers.

  1. Improved Mental Health: By providing confidential access to professional counselling services, EAPs help employees cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Employees can improve their mental health and overall well-being when using EAPs.
  2. Increased productivity: Employee Assistance Programs can help employees deal with personal and work-related issues affecting their productivity. When these issues are addressed, employees can focus on their work and unleash their productivity potential fully.
  3. Reduced absenteeism: EAPs can help employees deal with personal and work-related issues that may be causing them to miss work. When employees resolve these issues, absenteeism takes a nosedive, and they become more present and engaged at work.
  4. Work-Life Balance: EAPs often include resources for managing work-life balance, such as childcare assistance, eldercare services, and referrals for family support. By helping employees navigate personal responsibilities, EAPs promote a healthier work-life integration.
  5. Confidentiality: EAPs offer employees a confidential way to seek help for personal and work-related issues. The great thing about Employee Assistance Programs is that they help break down the barriers and stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues.

How to Choose an Employee Assistance Program 

Choosing an EAP for your organization involves several considerations to ensure that you select a program that best fits the needs of your employees and aligns with your organizational goals. Here’s a guide on how to choose an EAP:

  • Assess Employee Needs: Before selecting an EAP, conduct surveys, focus groups, or needs assessments to understand the specific challenges your employees face. This might include mental health support, legal assistance, financial counseling, or help with work-life balance.

  • Define Objectives: Clearly define what you want the EAP to achieve. Common goals include reducing workplace stress, decreasing absenteeism, improving productivity, and enhancing employee well-being. The employee assistance programs by EmployeeMatters can help you become more accountable and focused.

  • Review Services Offered: Evaluate the range of services different EAPs offer. Make sure the EAP includes core services such as confidential counseling, crisis intervention, stress management, and referral services. 

  • Check Provider Credentials: Ensure that the EAP providers have the necessary qualifications and experience. 

  • Consider Accessibility: Look for an EAP that is easily accessible to all employees. This includes 24/7 availability, multiple modes of delivery (e.g., in-person, telephone, online counseling), and multilingual support if required.

  • Evaluate Confidentiality Protocols: The EAP must maintain high confidentiality standards to ensure that employees feel safe using the services. 

  • Measure Effectiveness: Choose an EAP that has a robust method for tracking and reporting on its effectiveness. This could include utilization rates, satisfaction surveys, and reports on how the program is impacting workplace productivity.

  • Budget Considerations: Determine your budget for the EAP and compare it against the costs from various providers. 

Once an EAP is in place, continuously review its effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary. Regular feedback from employees can help refine the program to better meet their needs.

Exploring Employee Assistance Program Services

Employee Assistance Programs have an impressive array of services catering to employees' diverse needs. Let's explore some of these services:

Counselling Services

EAPs provide confidential counselling services to address personal and work-related concerns. Whether it's stress, depression, or career challenges, employees can find support to navigate life's ups and downs. Counselling services can help employees navigate personal issues that significantly impact work performance. These can be anything from relationship problems to financial issues or substance abuse.

Wellness Programs

Employee Assistance Programs can offer wellness programs to employees to help them maintain their physical and mental health. Wellness programs include fitness, nutrition, stress management, and mental health programs. These initiatives encourage healthy habits, boost morale, and improve employees' health.

Need some legal backup or financial expertise? EAPs often offer access to professionals who can guide employees through legal matters, such as divorce, child custody, drafting wills or handling landlord disputes. Financial advisors can help employees plan budgets, manage debts, handle bankruptcy, and make smart financial decisions.

Employee Assistance Program

Substance Abuse Programs

Let's talk about "Breaking Bad" habits! EAPs may provide resources for employees struggling with substance abuse. From counselling sessions to referrals to rehabilitation centres, these programs offer support to overcome addiction and regain control of one's life.

Workshops and Training

Expand your skills and knowledge with EAP workshops and training sessions. EAPs can offer workshops and training programs to employees to help them develop skills and strategies for managing their personal and work-related issues. Workshops and training programs can cover stress management, time management, communication skills, and conflict resolution.

Crisis Intervention

When life throws a curveball, EAPs are there to catch it. In cases of unexpected and challenging circumstances like accidents or natural disasters, Employee Assistance Programs can assist you with their crisis intervention services. They offer crisis intervention services to help employees deal with traumatic events like accidents or natural disasters. This immediate support can make a significant difference in promoting resilience and recovery.

Utilizing Employee Assistance Programs for a Thriving Workplace

Despite the many benefits of EAPs, they are often underutilized. According to the EAPA, more than 97% of large companies with over 5,000 employees have EAP free of charge to employees, including those who don't register for company health insurance. However, the underutilization of EAPs could likely be correlated to the stigma surrounding them.

A study shows that organizations spend an average of over $15,000 per year on each employee who experiences mental health issues. That's a staggering amount! Employers understand the importance of providing robust mental health support to their employees.

Here are some strategies for maximizing the benefits of Employee Assistance Programs:

  1. Raise Awareness: Create engaging campaigns and distribute materials to inform employees about the EAP's services and benefits. Make sure they know how to access support when needed.
  2. Confidentiality: Emphasize EAP services' confidentiality to alleviate employees' concerns about seeking help. Confidentiality builds trust and encourages utilization.
  3. Leadership Support: Encourage managers and leaders to discuss and promote the EAP openly. When leaders set an example by utilizing EAP services, it creates a culture that values mental health and well-being.
  4. Feedback and Evaluation: Continuously gather feedback from employees regarding their experience with the EAP. This feedback can help tailor and improve the program to meet their needs better.

How to use an Employee Assistance Program

Here are the steps to using an EAP:

  1. Find out if your employer offers an EAP: Most employers offer EAPs, but you may need to ask your HR department or supervisor if your employer has one.
  2. Contact the EAP: Once you know your employer offers an EAP, contact the EAP provider to get started. The contact information is found on your employer's website or employee handbook.
  3. Schedule an appointment: The EAP provider will schedule an appointment for you to meet with a counsellor. The options available are to choose to meet in person, over the phone, or via video chat.
  4. Attend your appointment: Attend your appointment with the counsellor. The counsellor will become your trusted guide on the journey towards resolution and personal growth.
  5. Follow-up: The EAP provider will follow up with you to ensure progress and offer additional support if needed.

Employee Assistance Program Providers

Many Employee Assistance Program providers are available, each offering different services. Here are some examples of EAP providers:

  1. LifeWorks: LifeWorks offers various EAP services, including counselling, financial coaching, and legal advice. They offer an app allowing teams to request anonymous counselling and life coaching sessions.
  2. Beacon Health Options: Beacon Health Options offers EAP services to help employees deal with personal and professional challenges.
  3. Magellan Healthcare: Magellan Healthcare offers EAP services to help employees deal with personal and work-related issues.
  4. CuraLinc Healthcare: CuraLinc Healthcare solves many personal issues, from coping with addictive behaviours and substance abuse to managing work-life balance.
  5. Cascade Centers: Cascade Centers provides a wide range of counselling services, focusing on personal finance. The employee assistance program includes the following services: financial, home ownership and life coaching.
  6. Ulliance: Ulliance has developed an EAP model to cater to the mental health needs of today's dynamic workforce. Within their Life Advisor Resolution EAP Model, 94% of employees dealing with substance abuse or emotional difficulties effectively managed their issues and work-life challenges through solution-focused, short-term counselling.
  7. BHS: BHS provides holistic care through an online employee assistance program that addresses employee challenges through counselling and provides analytics on the usage of the program. Their master-level clinicians are skilled at providing care to each employee's needs, and each case they handle is followed through from start to finish by one case manager.​


Employee Assistance Programs go far beyond mere policies and procedures; they embody a genuine concern for the well-being of employees. Organizations demonstrate their commitment to fostering a supportive and healthy workplace by implementing and actively promoting Employee Assistance Programs. EAPs are often underutilized due to stigma, lack of understanding, and poor communication. Employers can boost EAP utilization by educating employees, rebranding EAPs as wellness initiatives, and effectively communicating their availability and benefits.

Belinda Pondayi
This article was written by Belinda a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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