A good Employee Assistance Program is worth its weight in gold.
And when it comes to the health and welfare of employees, companies need to do what they can to help workers battle life’s unexpected and sometimes tragic twists and turns, a local EAP specialist says.
“I don’t think an organization can have an effective wellness program unless there is an employee assistance program,” said Rick Dimit, human resources director at Francis Tuttle Technology Center.
“We forget that people have individual challenges,” Dimit said. “Employees have so many tough, often unseen issues they’re dealing with. It’s unbelievable the problems people have.”
Confidential EAP’s cover a range of services, including help facing and dealing with the more prominent alcohol, drug and gambling addictions, he said. But a good EAP offers assistance across the board with other less-discussed issues as spending addictions, and with marital, financial and grief counseling.
At Francis Tuttle, all full-time employees are eligible for EAP services, Dimit said. The school provides a provider contact number to new hires, he said, and employees are reminded through avenues like payroll notices that there is an EAP for their use.
“It’s nice to have somebody you can refer an employee to if they want to talk to somebody,” he said.
Contracts that employers arrange with EAP providers vary, but most offer similar services.
“Most companies go for an assessment and referral program,” said Jo Ann Pearce, executive director of A Chance for Change in Oklahoma City, a nonprofit organization that provides EAP services for employers.
With that arrangement, employees contact an EAP provider on their own, and can then attend a set number, traditionally six or eight, of no-cost counseling sessions, Pearce said. The counseling is also offered to family members, she said.
Pearce has noticed a trend, though, in larger companies adding employee assistance under insurance policies, where people first call a toll-free number for help before being referred to a local group for additional assistance. The method isn’t as personal, and companies might see it as more cost-efficient, another trend Pearce has seen.
“We’re seeing companies concerned about rising insurance costs, and they see EAPs as another benefit to pay for,” she said.
But research shows the benefits of employee assistance programs far outweigh employer costs, Pearce said.
According to A Chance to Change, EAP services:
- Lower medical claims
- Reduce absenteeism
- Decrease use of mental health insurance
- Reduce turnover
- Increase employee productivity
- Reduce risk of litigation
- Decrease workplace violence
- Improve employee morale