Employee Assistance Program
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) helps employees navigate life challenges, adverse events, stress, and other issues that affect mental or emotional well-being. EAPs are typically voluntary and free to employees. In most cases, EAPs are also available to employees’ dependents and families.
Through EAPs, employees can access assessments, counseling, referrals and follow-up services to address issues such as child or elder care disruptions; alcohol or substance abuse; stress or grief; family problems; and financial or legal questions. Many EAPs also help organizations prevent and cope with workplace and partner violence, trauma and other emergency situations.
- Increases productivity
- Results in fewer absences
- Improves engagement
- Creates a safer workplace by lowering the risk of violence and a reducing workplace accidents
- Lowers healthcare costs
- Develops managers’ and employees’ ability to manage workplace stress
- Lowers turnover costs
- Improves mental health and lowers stressFootnote # 3
- Improves overall health and well-beingFootnote # 4
- Improves school performance and test scoresFootnote # 5
- Lowers behavioral challengesFootnote # 6
- Lowers violence within families
- Supports children experiencing violence within their family. Footnote # 7
Benefits to Parents/Families
- Improves financial stabilityFootnote # 8
- Stabilizes child careFootnote # 9
- Reduces absences from workFootnote # 10
- Lowers stress and alcohol and substance abuseFootnote # 11
- Improves mental health
- Improves overall health and well-being
- Supports employees experiencing violence within their familyFootnote # 12
Research or Recommendations from National Organizations
- According to the Society of Human Resources Management, EAPs are typically offered at no cost to employees by stand-alone vendors or providers. Services should be flexible and available via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, e-mail interactions or face-to-face. Footnote # 13
- According to the U.S. Chamber, you should follow these steps to find a reputable EAP program:Footnote # 14
- First, talk with your current healthcare provider, if you have one. Many of them offer or partner with EAP providers.
- Also check with any professional associations where you’re a member. Many of them offer access to EAP programs.
- When searching for a provider, some good questions to ask are:
- How long has the provider been in business?
- Have they worked with other employers in your industry?
- Can employees receive services on-site and off-site?
- What are the services the company offers?
- What are the credentials and training for staff members?
- What are the follow-up services to ensure employee success?
- Promote your program heavily. Research shows that employee usage of EAPs is low, at under 10 percent on average. Stigma surrounding mental health keeps some employees from using their EAP program, but often, companies don’t promote the programs enough for employees to know they exist.Footnote # 15
Range of Practices in the United States
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 54 percent of U.S. workers had access to an Employee Assistance Program as of March 2021.Footnote # 16
- However, that number drops to 35 percent for part-time employees and 33 percent for employees who earn the lowest wages.
- Further, people who work for employers with 500 or more employees are much more likely to have access to EAPs (83 percent) than people who work for small businesses with fewer than 100 employees (30 percent).Footnote # 17
Employee Assistance Programs Help Combat Two National Crises: Mental Health and Child Care
Employee Assistance Programs provide support to families to address all types of mental health challenges—and poor mental health is a matter of national concern.
- Prior to the pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor health outcomes for children. One in five children ages three to 17 had a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder before 2020, and the pandemic has taken a further toll on children’s mental health.
- The U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory in December 2021 on the urgent need to address children’s mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association have also publicly declared that child and adolescent mental health is a national emergency.
- Seventy percent of parents and caregivers report adverse mental health affects related to the pandemic, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- One in 14 children has a parent or caregiver with poor mental health. Parent mental health is directly related to child mental health, so improving one improves the other, according to the CDC.
- The pandemic has also led to an increase in intimate partner and family violence. According to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV), 75 percent of service providers across NC have seen increased demands for services during the pandemic.
One in three working families is struggling to find child care. By offering support for finding care, Employee Assistance Programs help keep parents at work and improve health outcomes for children and families.
- Annual losses from inadequate child care cost NC families, businesses and the economy $2.9 billion a year as of December 2020, according to research from the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. That number has likely increased since.
- Access to stable, high-quality early care and education is crucial to ensure children develop on track and are prepared for school and life success. Yet more than 70 percent of NC parents and caregivers have had difficulty finding a satisfactory child care arrangement.
- Prior to the pandemic, one in four children in North Carolina lived in a child care desert. A child care desert means there are three times as many children as spaces available.
When Nate Searcy’s first child was born, Nate only had two weeks’ paid family leave. With his second, he had 12 weeks — which he says helped him immensely with his work-life balance and eased his wife’s transition back to the workforce.
The Redwoods Group is a highly specialized provider of property/casualty insurance, underwriting, risk management and claims adjusting services.
Redwoods strives to be a changemaker – for clients and for employees. Leaders hold themselves to a high moral standard, which includes providing family-friendly policies that support their workforce.
“These have been in place for many years,” says Director of Human Resources Jennifer Keys, “We just continue to improve them as well as implement as needed. For example, we added twelve weeks baby bonding time last year.”
When Nate and his wife were expecting their second child, the company announced the additional paid leave. “Once I heard that, I was just really grateful,” says Searcy, “It was almost hard to wrap my head around it – especially since I only had two weeks with my first.” That’s still above the national average of one week of paternity leave.
Searcy also made use of a policy that’s been growing in popularity – breaking up his leave to work with his family’s schedule. He took six weeks of his leave once his baby was born, and another six weeks later to assist with his wife going back to work. “Being able to break it up, “he says, “really helped from a work-life balance standpoint. That was really nice.”
Redwoods also recognizes people need support at every stage of life.
Senior Underwriter Lisa Bohlen-Admire had a daughter preparing to go to college. She was able to take advantage of Redwood programs like 529 College Education Match, where the company matches half of the employee contribution to a savings account up to six percent and provides a one-time gift of $500 after a new birth or adoption to start the 529. Her daughter was also able to use Redwoods’ Scholarship Program, which allows employees to receive $6,700 per school year for up to four years to help cover college expenses.
“They’re looking for a better community,” says Bohlen-Admire, “and they want to support their own for a better community.” By offering programs like these, Redwoods shows their workforce that they support them outside of work, and that’s invaluable to Bohlen-Admire. “I just admire them for doing that.”
Keys explains that supporting employees creates the kind of working environment everyone enjoys. “Our employees are very grateful for the flexibility and support that Redwoods provides,” she says, “This definitely helps with retention and recruiting new hires.”
- Unlimited sick and vacation time.
- Paid parental leave: Maternity leave is twelve weeks in addition to an initial short-term disability leave of six to eight weeks. Paternity leave is twelve weeks.
- Employee Assistance Program: This is available to all employees and their household family members. The program provides four free and confidential in-person counseling conversations per problem or issue among countless resources.
- Rainy Day Loan Program: In partnership with Coastal Credit Union, Redwoods offers a small dollar (up to $1,500 at 10%), short-term loan product designed to help in unforeseen emergencies, expenses or bills.