Employee Assistance Programmes

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With the cost being relatively low and with such an array of benefits for both the employee and employer, it’s easy to understand why more businesses are incorporating an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as part of their overall benefit strategy.

An EAP is often positioned as a highly valued employee benefit that promotes wellbeing and a strong work/life balance, but is also proven to;

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Greatly reduce absenteeism (34% reduction on average – source CBI absence survey)

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Improve productivity in the workplace

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Reduce stress in staff members and colleagues

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Improve staff retention

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Demonstrate a caring approach towards employees

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Add value to an organisation (a return of £14 for every £1 invested – source CBI absence survey)

There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to employee health and wellbeing, but an EAP can certainly tick a lot of the boxes and help employers to gain a better understanding of the risk factors which exist within their business. 

Furthermore, by providing a tangible tool to help employees navigate any personal issues they may be facing, employers can drive higher levels of engagement, and can have a meaningful and genuine impact when an employee needs it most.

Some of the key benefits of an EAP are as follows;

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Confidential support services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year

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Face-to-face counselling with fully qualified professionals

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Stress related support

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

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Support for substance abuse, domestic abuse, debt problems, bereavement

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Family support services

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Serious illness and accident support

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Critical incident Support (in the event of a critical incident in the workplace)

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Medical helplines (for general medical advice)

These benefits can be invaluable to staff you mightn’t have an alternative channel available to them, and who also mightn’t be comfortable raising any personal concerns directly with their employer.

Mental health awareness and early intervention

Additionally, with the upward trend in mental health awareness, more and more employers are working hard to intervene where appropriate to do so, and assist employees in managing mental health conditions. 

Mental health is one of the greatest causes of sickness absence in the UK, and whilst the overall rate of sickness absence has fallen by 15%-20% since 2009, absence due to mental health reasons in this period has actually risen by around 5%.

Stress Related Absence has a significant impact on productivity and the below chart, recorded over a 10-year period by a major Income Protection provider, demonstrates the important role that early intervention plays.

The table shows that when an episode of stress related absence receives intervention at week four, the average total length of absence is 24.3 weeks. 

Where intervention is received between 21-25 weeks, the average total length of absence is over 55 weeks.

Many EAP providers will aim to assist employers to intervene within the first seven days, prompting early discussion and support, and facilitating a faster return to work for the employee.

Is just providing an EAP enough?

It’s certainly the important first step, but if employers wish to get the most return on their investment and genuinely improve the lives of their workforce, promoting the service in the right way is key.

All EAP providers will make supporting literature available, such as posters and leaflets, which can be displayed in common areas to spread the word, but employers can go further still. 

Many employers now incorporate the EAP service as part of their management training, and ensure that staff are continually reminded of its features during performance conversations/121’s. 

Direct managers are often the first to notice a change in employee behaviour and are usually best placed to guide people to the service.

Finally, whilst the use of an EAP by employees is confidential, many EAP providers offer meaningful Management Information to the employer, which can assist in understanding which risks are most prominent within their business.  

This is extremely useful as it empowers the employer to deploy resources more appropriately, ensuring that any health and wellbeing budget is being spent in the correct areas.

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