EAP Options for Businesses (In House or Outsourcing)

More and more companies these days are turning toward Employee Assistance Plans or EAPs to help them further support their staff. The idea that an employee’s personal problems are not the employer’s concern is slowly fading away as companies are learning that their people work better when they don’t have personal issues looming over their heads. In many cases, particularly in the case of drug and alcohol addiction, it is far more cost effective for an employer to provide resources to their struggling employee than to let them go from the company.

There are many extra expenses associated with firing and rehiring new staff. There are also greater chances of moral issues in the workplace if an employer simply allows a staff member to continue struggling with their issue. In the end, this leads to behavior such as frequent call outs and reduced productivity. Moreover, the implementation of EAPs actually helps to build loyalty and morale in the workplace. This is because and an employee assistance program indicates that the employer truly cares for their employee’s wellbeing. One of the biggest questions that companies face when looking into establishing an employee assistance program is whether they want to administer one on their own, or hire an outside agency to do so. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Establishing an In House Employee Assistance Program

Many companies approach their EAP by making it a part of the Human Resources department. This allows for the HR staff to handle the types of issues which an employee assistance program would address. This can be helpful in a number of ways. The first is that it saves money for the company since it doesn’t require an additional vendor. Unfortunately, only about 4% to 6% of eligible people actually use company EAPs to get the help that they need, so for many companies it’s not worth the extra cost to support the few people that actually would make use of the program.

Another way that this is helpful is that it encourages a sense of community among staff. Running an EAP in house means that many of the staff handling any issues would already be familiar with the employees already know the people they help, thus having more insight into the situation. Problems can be dealt with quickly without having to go through a third party. This will allow for more flexibility in company policy and provide better internal handling of the situation.

Part of the problem with running an EAP through the HR department or even giving it its own division is related to why so few people may use them. Fear can prevent a person in need from reaching out for help. One may feel too ashamed or intimidating to admit to a personal problem that is affecting their work On top of that, they may feel upset to receive a punishment from a policy where a violation could result in their losing their job. This unfortunately causes many to overlook or not address the real issue at hand. For many people, they would rather deal with the fallout from calling out to care for a sick child rather than ask for childcare help and risk not getting a promotion because they are perceived as being unreliable. In the case of substance abuse, many addicts fear that they will be fired on the spot or their employer will find an excuse to get rid of them, should they admit to having a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Another issue is that while the numbers are small, ideally they should be larger. If a company is doing everything in its power to get people to actually use the resources available to them in order to get the most productive workforce, they will soon find their HR department overwhelmed with requests and may be unable to handle their regular duties. More staff might need to be hired which could in turn, cost more than just working through a third party.

Outsourcing an EAP

Several companies have found that outsourcing their EAP is a better option for them. One advantage is that employers who allow a separate company to administer an EAP can encourage more people to use it. Many employees may find this route to be far more discrete, therefore taking advantage of help offered when they actually need it. That extra layer of “protection” between employees and their own bosses or managers, they are often more confident in the promise of anonymity for using those services. In fact, most third party EAPs will only provide aggregate information to the companies they are hired by, refusing to provide specific information, such as who needs what type of help.

The use of an external company to administer an Employee Assistance Program also ensures that the most accurate and up-to-date information is available to the staff who need to use it. Even the best HR department may not be able to adequately dedicate the time and effort necessary to research the many options available to employees who need legal services, counseling, rehab, child or elderly care, and the many other services that an EAP might have access to. By hiring experts in the field, companies can be sure that their employees are receiving the kind of information that they need in order to get their lives back on track.

One of the problems with using an external service is that it makes communication more difficult. Plus, the actual decision-makers are usually at least one more degree of separation from the employee, so problems that could be fixed with a phone call could require multiple calls and emails to get the process started. Many people can’t afford the extra time it could take to get everybody on board.

Finding the Right Option

There is no one good approach to implementing an Employee Assistance Program. Every company has to consider its size, the options it would like to offer, and how many people are likely to take advantage of it. They must also consider factors such as how much they should invest in it, and what types of risks are involved in either method. Taking the time to determine the best way to go about getting employees the assistance they need is very important, so make sure to weigh all of your options before you decide.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-healthcare-watch-20140615-story.html

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and HR

While it is not a set requirement, where most companies and organizations with an employee assistance program (EAP), there is usually a relationship between the EAP and their Human Resources department. In many cases, Human Resources administers the EAP themselves and takes whatever caution necessary to make sure that employees feel comfortable coming to them with a particular problem. In other cases, a third party organization might do the administration, but work with your company’s HR department in order to arrange for specific accommodations or keep them informed about the success of the program. In either case, there are certain things you should expect from an EAP.

Employee Assistance Programs Run by the HR Department

For a lot of companies, particularly small to medium sized ones that are still building themselves up, an employee assistance program may be offered to personnel, but is run by the people in the Human Resources department. While this isn’t a terrible idea if done right, there are some problems inherent to this approach. The biggest one is that what often keeps people from taking advantage of an employee assistance program is that they are afraid of how it might affect their jobs. It’s not uncommon for people with big problems, including substance abuse issues or financial difficulties, may not take advantage of available resources.

They might think that it will prevent them from getting raises or promotions in their job. In the worst cases, particularly for people who work entry-level or similar jobs, they are afraid that they will be fired. There are minimal legal protections for people that come forward with an alcohol addiction, for example. So, instead of getting the help they need, these individuals will continue to suffer in silence and hope that the negative effects of their struggle won’t hurt their job enough to cause them to lose it anyway.

That’s one of the reasons why most companies that go this route try to make it clear and explicit that all issues dealt with through the EAP will be kept strictly confidential. Human Resources is generally not in a position to actively weigh in on whether somebody should be fired or deserves a promotion, so they are in a position to help people without having the power to hurt them, even in the unlikely situation where that was their goal. In fact, most HR departments running employee assistance programs, seek to protect the employee as much as possible. The real reason behind implementing an EAP is that it helps employees who are dealing with personal issues or are under enormous amounts of stress to the point that it might affect their work productivity.

Employees deserve a way to address those problems in a healthy way so they can become more productive. EAP gives them that option. Plus, it generally costs more to hire and train new employees than it would take to help a current one with their struggles, and holding them in place does nothing but cause frustration that could result in a relapse. Rather than take the risk, Human Resources is more inclined to maintain confidentiality and ensure that management treats individuals who take advantage of the EAP fairly and equitably.

Employee Assistance Programs Run by Third Party Vendors

Since the 1970s, third party companies have been offering their services to run employee assistance programs for businesses across the United States. There are many advantages for organizations that work with one of these companies. First, employees are generally more willing to come forward to somebody who doesn’t directly hold any power over them. By farming these tasks out to another company, stakeholders can be sure that their staff will be comfortable with the level of confidentiality. While third party EAP companies often provide reports regarding the types of help they’ve offered to employees of a particular company, these reports are aggregate and do not use specific names or give specific examples.

This also takes a lot of pressure off of the HR department at a given company, not only allowing them to focus their attention on more pressing business matters, but also providing better quality information. Employee assistance program vendors have the time and resources to gather the latest, most useful, most detailed information about resources for any number of issues that a staff member might have. Unless several members of the Human Resources department are dedicated to just running the EAP, they may not be able to keep up. That being said, the use of an external corporation to run the EAP can be difficult when the employee’s company needs to be brought into a problem. If somebody needs to spend a week in inpatient rehab, it can sometimes take some time for the EAP company to clear that time off with HR, and if an addict comes forward it’s important to get them help quickly so that they don’t change their mind or harm themselves while waiting for approval.

Further, changes in administration of a company’s employee assistance program might throw somebody into chaos. If a person has just begun working with a particular EAP and suddenly find that they need to start all over again under a new system, it can be discouraging and prevent them from trying again. It’s one of the reasons why it’s vital that any changes be a smooth transition which doesn’t disrupt any progress the employee might be making. EAPs are not therapy, but they can often provide therapy that might have to change due to a company switch, for example.

Programs Designed to Help

Despite any flaws, in both cases the people working the employee assistance program are there to help. Neither is adversarial or unfeeling. Quite the opposite: they are specifically there to help personnel to overcome their issues and become the best contributors that they can be. Many people may not take advantage of their organization’s employee assistance programs for any number of reasons, but they should know that doing so could have a huge, positive impact on their lives. Taking advantage of everything an EAP has to offer might be the difference between losing control and saving a life.