What Is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) & What Are the Benefits?
- Employee Benefits
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 01/17/2023
Table of Contents
Stress, both in and out of the workplace, is a fact of life for many employees and business owners. In fact, more than one in four business and HR leaders (26%) said they are extremely or very stressed, and this increased to 35% of leaders feeling stressed at companies with 250 to 500 employees.1
There are things you can do to help alleviate some of the burdens of competing priorities and other stressors. In the long run, providing employee resources can go a long way in demonstrating how much you value your workforce.
An EAP, which stands for employee assistance program, is one example of how you can help employees resolve a variety of issues that contribute to stress, which in turn may be adversely affecting their work performance and morale. EAPs may help improve engagement and productivity, and even reduce absenteeism and turnover. Here's a closer look at why you may want to consider an EAP as part of your benefits lineup.
What Is an EAP?
An EAP provides a confidential source that employees can use to find support and resources for certain challenges they face. The service is usually provided as part of a larger benefits package and connects employees to assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services. Depending on the situation, employees can access certain services from the safety and privacy of their own home.
What Does an Employee Assistance Program Do & Why Is It Important?
Employee assistance programs are designed to connect employees with the best resources for handling personal challenges that can impact their ability to manage stress and remain productive while at work. EAPs can suggest resources that help with many needs from mental health counseling to personal service discounts on babysitting or insurance.
EAPs have trained representatives that can evaluate the needs of the employee and connect them to the best resource to help with that need. Whether it's recommending a counselor or providing a list of local photographers to lessen the stress of planning an upcoming wedding, the representatives that work with EAPs can quickly and efficiently go to work for your employees.
What Does EAP Coverage Include?
While the details of an individual program are identified in the plan documents, many EAPs provide critical support for serious issues. Some of the issues and services often included in an EAP are (but aren't limited to):
- Mental health programs: Anxiety, depression, grief, crisis intervention, and behavioral health issues such as addiction or eating disorders are some examples of issues supported through these programs.
- Health and caregiving: In addition to managing their own health (e.g. establishing a fitness plan, getting nutrition guidance, or coping with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension), employees may be faced with additional challenges like being the caregiver for a loved one. Through an EAP, employees can get help locating eldercare or daycare services, nursing homes, or even tracking down an in-network physician for a child going to school out-of-state.
- Family services: All families can benefit from support in one way or another. Help is available with EAP marriage counseling services, family planning, child safety, physical or emotional abuse, and mediation.
- Counseling referrals: One of the overarching benefits of an employee assistance program is having readily available, confidential support from qualified professionals for personal, family, and work-related issues. Counseling services can include assessments, remote short-term support, or referrals.
- Substance abuse: Chemical dependency, addiction, alcoholism, gambling, and crisis intervention are a few examples where support from a qualified professional through the EAP can make a positive and potentially life-saving impact in an employee's life.
- Financial services: EAP services can connect employees with help to improve financial wellness — budgeting advice, achieving healthy spending habits, loan consolidation, debt repayment, setting up an emergency fund, and more.
- Work issues: Navigating a career change, establishing a plan for professional development, managing workplace stress and responsibilities, making travel plans, or managing relationships with coworkers are all examples of how an EAP can help employees with work-related issues and help prevent or overcome burnout.
How Does an Employee Assistance Program Work?
The specific offerings of an EAP vary depending on the plan documents of the program. However, an EAP typically covers your employees and could also cover eligible household members, including a spouse, domestic partner, children, or other dependents. EAPs often maintain a network of partners who can help meet a range of needs, such as legal firms, childcare professionals, elder care specialists, nutritionists, fitness experts, and more. With an EAP, your employees and their qualified household members have access to a confidential resource they can call when crises or general life management questions arise.
The range of services may vary from on-call counselors and referrals to local resources that can help them solve their challenges. Members can also access a virtual library of free resources and online self-help tools. Access to care counselors is available 24/7, and all communications are personal and confidential.
An EAP is not health insurance. However, a combination of a health insurance plan and an EAP could be useful to your organization and appreciated by employees.
Benefits of an EAP
When life's challenges outpace your employees' ability to cope, it can negatively impact both their performance and productivity. Having adequate support can help employees manage stress and solve problems, which may reduce the negative impact on the company's bottom line and overall morale.
Employees nationwide are currently dealing with stress: whether it's the ongoing impact of the pandemic, working at home and contending with work/life balance, are dealing with health issues, need to take care of kids, or are working long hours. In the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, 60% of HR leaders said they were concerned about employee burnout, an 18% increase from before the pandemic. Your staff can leverage an employee assistance program to support employees in keeping stress levels under control, even during these challenging times.
Absenteeism and stress are closely related. When you layer this on top of the numerous issues that may already be keeping employees from work — being caregivers or getting sick themselves — absenteeism can become a serious issue. An EAP can help an employee find the resources that can help save them time and mitigate unhealthy stress levels. Having these tools on hand can have positive impacts, such as improved time management and more energy throughout the workday.
Reduced Accidents and Fewer Workers' Comp Claims
When employees have readily available access to resources that improve their health, manage their problems, and reduce stress, their overall wellness can improve. Stress management can help employees be more productive, as well as work smarter and safer, especially those who are involved in various forms of physical labor. Investing in an EAP may likely reduce accidents and could ultimately lower your workers' compensation claims.
For many employers, providing healthcare coverage is one of the more costly components of a benefits package. A healthcare assistance service like an EAP can help manage that cost over the long-term by helping provide the advice, support, and resources employees need to be physically and mentally healthier, thus lowering their health care claims over the long-term. Additionally, an EAP can help employees be more efficient in managing their healthcare expenses.
Greater Employee Retention
Employees who are engaged and satisfied with their work tend to stick around longer. Not only can access to an EAP empower employees to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives but offering an EAP as a benefit demonstrates that you care about their overall well-being, which can increase feelings of loyalty to your organization. Roughly half of companies with 10 to 500 employees expect that hiring quality staff will be more challenging in the next 12 months.1 Offering benefits like an EAP can really set your company apart.
Likewise, feeling stressed or overworked, an inability to achieve sufficient work/life balance, and not having access to resources are some of the reasons why employees choose to leave a job. An EAP, with its network of resources, functions to help employees better manage feelings and situations. When you consider the true cost of losing an employee (impact on morale, productivity loss, cost of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new person), investing in an EAP to help support your retention efforts makes a lot of sense.
Other EAP Benefits to Employers
There are additional benefits of an employee assistance program for employers. In certain cases, EAPs can directly help a company resolve ongoing issues. Each program's offerings are different, but certain programs will provide consultations to managers or executives on how to handle difficult situations within the workplace. For example, an EAP can be used as a resource during employer/employee interactions. If a worker is experiencing performance issues or discloses personal problems to an employer, a referral to an EAP resource may be appropriate. However, it's important to evaluate this from a policy standpoint and obtain expert HR or legal advice to ensure the strategy you're considering complies with relevant state and federal regulations.
An EAP can also help a business meet employees' needs while staying within its budget. Many employees and potential job candidates want a variety of benefits, and an EAP is one way a smaller organization can remain competitive for top talent and retain valued staff once hired. It may be a good time to audit your employee benefits package to determine whether an EAP would benefit your organization.
How Much Does an Employee Assistance Program Cost?
When added to a larger employee benefits package, EAPs can come at a very reasonable cost to employers. While the exact figure will vary across providers and service offerings, many EAP add-ons cost between 75 cents and $2 per member per month, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
The exact costs will vary based on:
- The number of employees covered
- The number of services offered
- Frequency of use
- Chosen EAP provider
What Are the Steps for Launching a Successful EAP?
The most important step for launching a successful employee assistance program is identifying which services are needed by your employees. To that end, employers looking to add an EAP to their existing benefits package should take the following steps.
1. Gather Employee Feedback
Your employees may be willing to share what they need most, especially if they understand that the information is to be used to help you improve company benefits offerings.
2. Explore Provider Offerings
There are numerous EAP providers, each with their own unique plans and offering sets. By comparing several providers, you can start to narrow the field and identify which providers align with the services and benefits sought by your employees.
3. Compare the Numbers
Each plan will have its own limitations on number of covered employees, number of services offered, and how often employees can access the service. By comparing these figures, you can calculate a rough annual cost to your organization.
4. Integration With Your Existing Benefits Plan
Once you have chosen a plan, work with your EAP provider to seamlessly integrate this service into your existing benefits package.
How To Adopt an EAP at Your Business
Challenging situations, from stress on the job to navigating an emergency, can take a toll on individuals. Help your staff get the support they need by investing in an employee assistance program. Ready to get started? An EAP is included as part of all Paychex HR Services offerings, and clients can get started by contacting their dedicated HR professional. If you're evaluating your benefits plan on a broader scale or looking to switch providers, consider how Paychex can help you attract and keep an engaged and productive workforce.
Learn how a mentally healthy workplace is good for business and take steps today to improve the mental health of your employees. For additional resources, check out our mental health resource page.
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