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An International Employee Assistance Programme (otherwise known as a Global Employee Assistance Programme, or Expat Assistance Programme) is a suite of employee support services offered via a single platform. It is designed to help employees in multiple locations around the world deal with work-related problems or personal issues which may have a negative effect on their physical or mental wellbeing, hindering their performance at work.
A Global EAP generally includes most, or all, of the following:
– elderly care
– work life balance
– anxiety & depression
– life transitions
– emotional support, particularly around grief, trauma & loss.
An International Employee Assistance Programme can be made available to all employees and expatriates wherever they are in the world. All the large Global EAP providers are supported by a large network of professionals able to offer face-to-face counselling in any language or culture around the world.
In recent years, the sector has made significant investments to ensure that employees and expats can get 24/7 year-round support by phone, email, webchat, or app in their native language.
EAPs usually provide a defined number of counselling referral sessions at no added cost to the employer or employee. Although most EAPs do not provide long-term counselling, they can assist employees in finding options that are intended to be long-term solutions.
The HR team should also have a good overview of the program and know how to direct employees there, should it be required, and how to access it themselves if a traumatic incident occurs to a population of staff . Expatriate employees leaving on assignment and line managers of expat staff should also be well versed in the offering to ensure it is able to be referred as early as possible when an issue or potential issue is identified.
Where International Employee Assistance Programmes can be less effective is if they are not promoted internally properly and have a low level of employee engagement. It is important to communicate the service and have very clear actions for employees to take to be able to access the support services when required.
It’s important to note that the service maintains privacy for the employee. The employer and HR team has no way of knowing who is using the service, what features they are using, or how regularly.
There are many reasons why a business may choose to implement an International Employee Assistance Programme, we have provided five of the main ones to help you consider if it is would useful for your businesses:
As rough guide, the average cost of an EAP is between £5 and £15 per person, according to the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association. However, there are many factors which affect price point, including:
If you’re a business which already has International Health Insurance (or is seeking to invest in this policy) then a global EAP can often be included as a value added extra. While this is a great additional feature, it can have its drawbacks. This is because many businesses fail to adopt a separate communication and promotion strategy which leads to poor employee engagement compared to when a business purchases a bespoke service.
A good International Employee Benefits Broker should highlight the value of services offered within the EAP and assist with building a strong communication and promotion strategy to ensure strong staff engagement and business value.
One downside to accessing your International Employee Assistance Programme via your International Health Insurance scheme, is that you will not be directly provided promotion materials and you will not have access to the annual reporting on utilisation. While you can work on your own promotion materials, the annual reporting does provide useful insights into the degree to which the services is being used and underlying trends that you may want to address.
The setup of a Global Employee Assistance Program, or Expatriate Employee Assistance Program is straightforward in itself. The chosen service provider will get everything set up for you quickly, and provide all the necessary documentation and contact information that should be disseminated to the employees.
A good employee communication plan is important to support rollout, however. As an expert international insurance consultant, Engage Health Group can help support your communication strategy and guide you through the whole set-up process.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that 78% of employees miss work due to mental health concerns, with 34% missing work for two months or more.
Stress Related Absence has a significant impact on productivity and the below chart, recorded over a 10-year period by a major UK Income Protection provider, demonstrates the important role that early intervention plays.
When an episode of stress-related absence receives intervention at week four, the average total length of absence is 24.3 weeks. Whereas when the intervention is received between 21-25 weeks, the average total length of absence is over 55 weeks.
An expat employee will experience additional stress through relocating themselves, and also potentially their family. With the high cost involved in expatriate assignments, there is an even stronger rationale to promote your International Employee Assistance Programme effectively. Early signs of mental health issues can be detected and addressed before they become a serious problem.
Read our latest article on expats mental health during the covid pandemic (William Russell Data)
Businesses with an existing expatriate population, or a business looking to implement expat assignments for the first time, should strongly consider establishing an International Employee Assistance Programme (IEAP), or specialised Expat Employee Assistance Programme.
The first consideration is the duty of care a business has to an employee they send out on international assignment. For the vast majority of employees, taking on an expat assignment is a big life choice. It effects not only themselves but their friends and loved ones. The move will require the employee to adjust to a new culture, new laws and customs, new colleagues, a new residence, unfamiliar tax rules and countless other things that they will need to adapt to.
Clearly, an employer sending a member of staff on assignment has a duty of care to ensure that the employee is supported as far as possible. This can help them settle more quickly, but also protect them against any worst-case scenarios.
There are many things for an employer to consider. However, supporting an expat with a confidential support service and assisting with a broad range of issues, both in, and out, of work, should be one of the first things on the list.
It’s also worth thinking of the cold, hard business case. Expatriate assignments are a significant investment for any business and expat failure could mean tens, or even hundreds of thousands, in lost expenditure. Two of the main reasons why expat assignments fail include an inability to settle and achieve optimal productivity. Both of these could be prevented with early intervention by some of the support services offered by an International Employee Assistance Programme, or particularly an Expat Employee Assistance Programme. The latter are specifically focused on supporting expat employees settle and thrive in their assignment.
It’s certainly the important first step. But if employers wish to get the most return on their investment and genuinely support their workforce, then promoting the service in the right way and offering it as part of a broader International Employee Benefits strategy is key.
All Global EAP providers will provide supporting literature, 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 International EAP service as part of their management training to ensure that staff are reminded of its features during performance conversations and other one-to-ones.
Keep in mind that 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 International Employee Assistance Programme by employees is confidential, many iEAP providers offer ‘meaningful management information’ to the employer, which can assist in understanding which risks are most prominent within their business. I.e. management can see anonymised usage trends and insights.
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.
Implementing a successful Global Employee Assistance Programme can deliver a range of benefits, including:
While many of the actual features are similar, the key difference is the global audience that an International EAP supports.
The International EAP providers often have an international footprint themselves, plus a global network of counselling services enabling face-to-face support to employees anywhere in the world. The centralised call centres they operate can also handle calls in multiple languages equipped with a deep understanding of cultural differences that are an important consideration in addressing personal and work issues.
Aside from these practical considerations, a global EAP will provide technology, documentation and promotional materials in multiple languages.
There are Global Employee Assistance Programme providers who have no minimum number of employees or expatriates. Do consider, however, that EAP’s have a banded pricing model. If you are planning to roll it out to one or two members, the cost per-head will be higher if the band extends to, say, ten employees. This is because the price is the same for any number of employees within that headcount band.
If you are considering purchasing International Health Insurance with a built-in International EAP, then the minimum number of employees is three for most International Medical Insurance providers.
One study conducted by a leading International Employee Assistance Programme provider, looked at the impact an International EAP can make on lost time and productivity for an employee working eight hours a day, 152 hours per month. They found that:
Global Employee Assistance Programme’s consistently deliver a solid return-on-investment. This is partly due to its relatively low cost and the broad level of support it offers. One specific study by an International EAP provider looked at the impact of early intervention counselling services vs a three-month period of continued distress. It found that for every $1 invested, the employer was able to generate circa $3:37 in value.
Yes, a Global Employee Assistance Programme is completely confidential. Nothing is fed back to the employers that could in any way be traced back to any individual.