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Employee Assistance Program

The purpose of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is to improve the psychological health of your employees. It will help your staff develop coping skills and accept a greater degree of personal responsibility. It will help them resolve their individual, marital, family and job performance problems. As a result, their productivity and attendance will improve.
Your employees and their dependents will have immediate access to confidential professional counseling, free of charge.

Counselors are Doctoral level Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D., C.Psych.). Professionals with the highest qualification in the field of human behaviour provide direct counseling.

Counseling focuses on helping the patient deal effectively with change and stress in their personal, career and family lives.

Your managers, supervisors and human resource staff will be able to focus on work performance. They will no longer feel the need to struggle with the personal problems of their staff.

Features to look for in an EAP:

  • Direct Access: Employees call the psychologist's office directly.
  • Quick Response: The first counseling session occurs within a few days, and a crisis is dealt with immediately.
  • Professional: Counselors have their Doctorate degree in clinical psychology, and are experts in human behaviour.
  • Confidentiality: The employer never knows who uses the service.
  • Off-Site: Counseling takes place at the Psychologist's office.
  • Direct Treatment: Referrals are made only when the patient requires another specialist or long-term care.
  • Appropriate Coverage: 24 hours a day hot-line with offices in towns and cities in which employees are located

Benefits of an EAP

Psychological Health Care in Canada
Publicly funded provincial hospital insurance plans provide excellent physical healthcare through a network of doctors and hospitals. Employer-sponsored extended healthcare insurance policies reimburse employees for most expenses not covered by the provincial plan. Canadians are fortunate to have such excellent healthcare for a physical accident or sickness.

Unfortunately, when we face emotional, interpersonal or psychological problems, the traditional healthcare delivery system is not much help. It is difficult to find a qualified professional, and the accessibility and cost prevent us from getting the help we need.

The health and well-being of your employees is important to your corporate success. This explains how an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will satisfy the needs of your employees while helping meet your corporate objectives.

The personal problems of your employees have a dramatic impact on their job performance and productivity.
Personal difficulties, such as work-related stress, marital or family problems, or alcohol and drug addiction, can effect almost anyone. Sometimes, such problems can impair an employee's performance at work, leading to lower productivity, strained relations with co-workers and frequent absences or accidents.

An EAP will help your employees sort out the difficulties that may be causing them trouble in the workplace. They will be able to get professional psychological counselling to help them resolve their problems. This type of short-term results-oriented therapy program focuses on clarifying the problem, implementing solutions and monitoring progress. The result is a healthier, more productive employee with improved relations at home and at work.

Healthy Human Resources
Personal problems do become personnel problems. The following statistics paint a picture of the stress that Canadian workers undergo. More than 17% of households are run by single parents. One in every three marriages ends in divorce. Most discipline cases involve problem drinking. Of the Canadian work-force, 5%-10% have an alcohol problem and another 5%-10% have a drug-related problem.
This investment in corporate wellness is likely to be the most significant factor that will influence the quality of work, productivity, attendance and retention of your staff. By addressing the personal needs of your employees, you can create a healthier corporate environment. An EAP will help both your employees and your corporation reach their potentials. The increasing popularity of EAPs shows that corporations are beginning to realize the need to invest in healthy human resources.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Disclaimer: The following information was developed in 1987 and updated where possible as recent as 2000. Please obtain current stats from your employee benefit consultant.

The cost of an Employee Assistance Program is often based on utilization. If 5% of employees used the program for an average duration of 7 visits at $120 each, the monthly cost would be $3.50 per employee.

Competitive Advantage
The reduction of stress will enable your staff to be more courteous, creative, and able to concentrate longer. This will give you a significant advantage in today's competitive and rapidly changing market.

15% of the work-force causes 90% of absenteeism. Emotional factors account for 61% of time lost through absenteeism. Statistics Canada reports that the typical employee is absent 8 days per year. Their studies also show that absenteeism costs the employer 1.75% of an absent employee's wages. Companies spend 5.6% of their payroll on absenteeism.

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that 10% to 15% of employees have severe personal problems. The work performance of these employees is at least 35% below normal. The reduced productivity of troubled employees costs companies 3.5% to 5% of payroll.

An employee with problems disrupts the working environment of others. The effects of one employee's problems on the productivity of co-workers are considerable, but difficult to measure.

Only 15% of terminations are the result of employees' inability to perform their job function. Personal and interpersonal factors account for 65% to 80% of all terminations. The EAP helps employees resolve personal and interpersonal problems before termination is necessary.

Stress contributes to 85% of accidents. An EAP will reduce the stress of your workforce This will reduce the claims and rates of your extended health care and short term disability plans. Your long term disability rates should also be reduced as a result of the lower risk of your employees.

Personal problems contribute significantly to tardiness, theft, arson and fraud. Stress adversely effects physical health and quality of life.

If 5% of your employees used the EAP the potential monetary savings would be 3.45% of payroll for reduced absenteeism and improved productivity from problem employees. The savings from these areas alone justify the cost of 0.14% of payroll.

Counseling Service

Counseling Approach
Counseling can come in many forms. A friend or relative can give you advice. You can seek guidance from a religious organization or a social worker. This program provides the highest quality of care possible. All counselors have their Doctorate degree in psychology. Their years of training and experience in human behaviour give valuable insight into the complex personal issues we all face.

The EAP provides assessment, problem-solving and therapy. The counselor keeps the focus on problem-solving. This results oriented counseling obtains tangible results quickly. The average duration of counseling is five sessions.

The goals are to:

  1. Provide support and understanding.
  2. Help identify problems and clarify issues.
  3. Train employees to develop coping skills.
  4. Educate employees in self-management techniques.
  5. Encourage patients to accept personal responsibility.
  6. Refer to the proper community resources when the patient requires more intensive, long term or specialized services.
  7. Provide appropriate follow-up (three month period) to monitor success in maintaining personal change efforts and activities.

Confidentiality is critical to the success of your EAP. The provider protects the identity of patients who use the service and assures them that they can trust the counselor with their most private concerns. Nothing related to a counseling session will ever be repeated. It is important for employees to believe this; otherwise the program will not be used.
All communication between a patient and Doctor is privileged and carefully protected. Professional licensing regulations prohibit disclosure of information without written consent from the patient.

Employees make their first contact directly by phone and then attend counseling sessions at the psychologist's office. The coordinator carefully staggers appointments to make sure employees or dependents from the same company do not meet.

The statistical reports that provide information to the employer protect the identity of patients.

Professional Standards
All counselors should be registered psychologists, licensed by provincial statutes and government regulating bodies. They must adhere to the Code of Professional Standards and Ethics of the Canadian Psychological Association. In addition, the psychologists are subject to a peer review process.

Every counselor should have professional liability insurance.

Professional Response
Counselors help employees deal with a wide range of personal problems. The goal of therapy is to help patients understand their problems, and develop the skills necessary to take charge of their life. The difficulties they face at work, or in their personal and family situations can include:

  • Job-Related Stress
  • Marital and Family Problems
  • Alcohol or Drug Dependencies
  • Separation, Divorce, Custody
  • Difficulties with Children
  • Personal Adjustment Problems
  • Severe Psychological Disorders
  • Financial and Legal Concerns
  • Weight, Smoking & General Fitness or Health Problems
  • Pre-retirement Planning
  • Aging Parents
  • Deaths in the Family
  • Sexual Harassment or Abuse
  • Gambling
  • Work-Related, Employee or Group Conflict
  • Bereavement

Active employees, their spouse and dependent children under the age of 21 should be covered. Each employee can be limited to a certain number of sessions per year (i.e. 12). Employees with dependents can have an additional number of sessions for the rest of their family.

Coverage ceases upon termination of active employment. An employee who has been receiving counseling should be permitted a two session continuance. This will allow for an orderly referral to a private or community-based resource.

The provider should ensure that psychologists can provide personal counseling at locations accessible to all staff. Employees can choose male or female counselors and in a predominant language of the region.

Counseling takes place at the office of the psychologist. The offices are discrete and accessible by both public transportation or automobile.
Employees can use the confidential, toll free, telephone service 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

To respond to various work schedules, office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. In emergencies, employees will get help immediately, at any time of any day.
Employees attend their initial counseling session within one week of the initial contact. This lets them start resolving their problems quickly.

Referrals to Other Specialists
Short-term counseling cannot solve every problem. Approximately 15% of patients are referred to a more appropriate professional service.

Employees with serious alcohol or drug problems, psychiatric disorders, or those in need of medical, legal, or financial services are potential referrals. The psychologist's close ties within the health community can expedite the referral process. The psychologist will provide supportive counseling until the patient participates in a treatment program.

When appropriate, the counselor will work jointly with other professionals on a case. For example, a person may require medication to overcome a serious depression. In such an instance, the psychologist would coordinate treatment with the family doctor or a consulting physician.

Most referrals to other professionals and long-term care programs can result in costs not covered by this program. The counselor addresses the patient's financial concerns when making a secondary referral. The psychologists are familiar with government-subsidized services and community-based resources and will suggest them if available.

Quality Control
Case management involves assessment, problem-solving, implementing solutions and progress review. Counselors fully document each stage in order that the therapy may be reviewed and assessed. All cases are subject to evaluation and peer review.

Patients should complete confidential surveys one and four months after counseling is concluded. This helps build on strengths and correct any weaknesses.
The EAP provider should be accredited by the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA) and cooperate with an independent firm of clinical auditors.

Client Service

Introducing the Benefit
The way your employees perceive this benefit will dramatically effect the value your organization will derive from this program. If they see it as a management tool, they will not use it. In order for your company to derive full benefits from this program, your employees must trust its confidentiality and understand when and how to use it.

This new and exciting benefit should be introduced to your staff through an orientation meeting. The provider should explain the features of the program and give each employee documentation that describes the EAP. A brochure should explain the program, how it works, when to use it and how to get counselling. Refrigerator magnets and other communication tools can be employed. This type of meeting is ideal for explaining how this program can benefit your employees personally. You should give many counselling examples and discuss your employees' concerns.

Ongoing Communication
The provider should enthusiastically encourage employees to get help before their personal problem becomes a performance problem. We will provide quarterly newsletters, or articles for your company's publication. Such education will equip your employees to recognize problems early. They can then resolve conflicts before they become crises.
If your EAP is presented as an employee benefit, we will provide descriptive wording for your benefit booklets.

Management Training in Early Detection
The provider should meet with your supervisors and managers and help them recognize the early signs of distress. We will teach them how to deal with crisis situations. We will explain when and how to encourage employees to use the EAP.

Monitoring Utilization
We give you a statistical report every quarter. This report shows the quantity of sessions provided. It also provide details on the types of problems counseled, initial vs. ongoing, employee vs. family, and usage by region.
If your organization would like to be sure of the accuracy of the statistical reporting, we will cooperate fully with an agreed upon independent auditor.

Measuring Success
The provider should help you set performance standards by which to measure the success of the EAP. You can use confidential employee surveys to gauge our adherence to the standards.

The following are some of the more common criteria:
All Employees

  • Understand the key features of the program.
  • Believe the EAP is totally confidential.
  • Know who to call to get counselling.
  • Understand when to use the EAP.

Employees Who Have Received Counseling

  • Satisfaction with timeliness and courteousness of response.
  • Ability to relate to their counselor.
  • Satisfaction with the quality of counseling.
  • Found the counseling helpful in resolving their problem.
  • Noticed an improvement in their attendance after counseling.
  • Noticed an improvement in their work performance after counseling.

Managers and Supervisors

  • Spend less time counseling employees with performance problems related to personal issues.

Appearance of Your EAP

Through a Joint Labour / Management Committee
Some firms have severely strained staff relations; others have a strong staff association or union. Still others choose to establish a joint committee to demonstrate their sincere commitment to participative management. In these situations, it is common to establish a Joint Labour Management EAP committee. The purpose of the joint committee is to convince employees that the program is confidential. Otherwise, the employees would be too skeptical to use the program. The committee would determine the need for an EAP, design the program, select the provider, monitor its implementation and review its effectiveness.

The advantage of this approach is that employees trust the confidentiality of the program. The major disadvantage is the loss of control to the joint committee. Another serious disadvantage is that even though the company pays the full cost of the program, it is presented as a joint effort. The employer gives up the positive publicity associated with introducing this benefit and demonstrating true concern for the employees and their families.

Within your Employee Benefits Structure
A second approach is to introduce the EAP as an enhancement of your employee program. Confidentiality is addressed and accepted by staff. Management remains in full control of the EAP. The corporate image improves through the introduction of this very humane benefit. The firm is viewed as a progressive employer. The external response is likely to be more favorable than if it were a joint labour management EAP program.

Presenting the EAP as an employee benefit has definite advantages. The absence of bureaucracy makes the program much easier to introduce and maintain. It also generates the image of a progressive employer with superior employee benefits. You can set up benefit review committees or one that only monitors EAP confidentiality.

Many companies have an employee wellness committee. It normally include informal leaders and managers who are perceived by employees as approachable. The purpose of the committee is to encourage healthy lifestyles. Typical issues include physical fitness, smoking cessation, stress management, personal goal setting, finances and many more. Since EAPs promote wellness, it is feasible to have this committee monitor confidentially and employee attitudes toward the program.

Within your Medical Benefit
A third approach is to increase the reimbursement of physiological counseling to $1,000 annually and promote a competent EAP provider as a preferred provider.

Some aspects of this approach:

  • employees are patients and confidentiality is ensured
  • employees retain the freedom of choice
  • the preferred provider makes services accessible

Employers can refer employees to the EAP provider for performance and disability issues and be billed directly by the provider.