5 reasons why you need an Employee Assistance Program

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Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

The first employee assistance programs (EAPs) were established in response to the growing problem of alcoholism among white-collar workers.

Eventually, however, the programs evolved into what they’re known for today—providing confidential support to employees with mental, financial, childcare, substance abuse, and other personal problems.

If an EAP isn’t part of your benefits portfolio, there are good reasons to reconsider that decision. An EAP doesn’t just help your employees, it also helps you with sticky employees relations issues that have the potential to go terribly wrong if handled poorly.

What an EAP can do for you

When choosing an EAP, be sure your company is assigned a designated representative who is no more than a phone call or email away when you need advice. That individual can talk you through complicated situations that would otherwise confound even the most competent HR professional or manager.

For example:

  • What would you do about a sick employee whose appearance has begun to deteriorate before your very eyes but who seems determined to ignore her condition?
  • What would you do about an employee whose nasty temper and tongue consistently create conflict within and outside her department?
  • How would you manage the chronically absent employee who has one life emergency after the other?

An EAP could help with all that.

So, without further ado, here are 5 more reasons you need an EAP today.

  1. An EAP provides you with expert assistance on complicated employee relations issues.
    OK fine, I already said that, but it bears repeating. Sticky problem? Call your counselor for help.
  2. An EAP cuts down on the need to expend in-house resources on employee relations issues.
    When your employees are having personal problems that impact productivity, managers and/or HR are often called in to counsel, coach, and otherwise provide guidance. This level of involvement is time consuming, and more important, employees sometimes need professional help that even the best manager isn’t qualified to give.
  3. An EAP provides a layer of protection between you and accusations of wrong-doing.
    Tricky employee relations issues sometimes require an attorney’s insight, and your EAP is no substitute for that. However, an employee is going to be hard pressed to prove that he was treated unfairly (after say, being terminated for excessive absenteeism) when you show that you provided him with every chance to improve, including access to your EAP.
  4. Many EAPs offer additional services, such as on-site workshops and training.
    In my prior life, I called on the EAP for conflict resolution and respect in the workplace training, and I could have chosen from among many more topics. Some EAPs will customize training at your request, too.
  5. If nothing else, an EAP is an excellent demonstration of your company’s concern for employee well being.
    EAPs don’t have to be expensive, either. Many charge a per-employee/per-month fee that’s quite reasonable, and the first time you call on the EAP for help on a challenging employee matter, it’ll practically pay for itself!

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