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Purchasing an EAP
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have served employers and their workforces for more than five decades. The earliest delivery models were internal programs in which employees exhibiting alcohol or drug problems at work were referred to an on-site alcohol counselor employed directly by the sponsoring employer. The counselor assessed troubled employees’ situations, referred them to the appropriate type of treatment to begin their recovery and save their job, and then stayed in supportive contact with them for many years following their successful completion of treatment.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, external EAP delivery models emerged through which services were provided by external professional firms that employed staff counselors working out of service centers not associated with the workplace. This “standalone” EAP model afforded a greater sense of confidentiality for the employee and lessened liability for wrongful referral for the employer. Blended models using both internal EAP managers and external service firms were popular in many large corporations with multiple locations in these earlier years and several of these dually managed programs continue in existence today.
Over the years, the focus of EAP service has broadened well beyond alcohol and drug problems to include other personal concerns that could impair employees’ ability to perform well at work. The Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) defines an EAP as “a workplace program designed to assist: (1) work organizations in addressing productivity issues, and (2) «employee clients» in identifying and resolving personal concerns, including health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, stress, or other personal issues that may affect job performance.”
In recent years, rapidly changing market forces and the evolving needs of today’s workforce have resulted in the emergence of many different types of EAP delivery platforms.
Types of Service Platforms
Personal, family and relationship EAP counseling services are now supplemented with well-being and work/life balance services. EAP services are typically provided at no cost to the employee and delivered in person, by telephone, or through technology media. Performance referral and drug free workplace services for the organization are now supplemented with workplace critical incident support, risk mitigation, violence prevention, cultural enhancement, and health and productivity integration services.
Types of EAP Vendors
In addition to standalone EAP services delivered directly by a professional EAP firm on a capitated fee basis, many other types of entities have added EAP services to their customer offerings. The levels of service to employees, levels of service to the organization, and pricing structures vary considerably.
Telephonic and web-based EAP services are embedded within many ancillary (disability, life, vision, dental) plan portfolios and offered at no cost to the purchaser. Many payroll and wellness companies offer EAP within the supplemental services matrix they maintain for their customers. Medical plan carriers offer bundled EAP plan options that allow for the first several sessions of counseling with a network behavioral health counselor at no deductible or co-pay charge to the participant. Embedded or bundled EAP services may be provided by a subcontracted organization rather than directly by the ancillary plan, payroll service or wellness/medical carrier.
Many organizations purchase an EAP because leadership recognizes that both work and personal life impact job performance. Some organizations purchase an EAP to have a service on hand in case something like a disruptive event in the workplace or a traumatic event in an employee’s personal life happens.
Good organizations use their EAP to manage problems when they arise. The best organizations leverage the entire suite of EAP services to preempt problems before they impact the organization’s people, products and profit.
Many EAP service and delivery platforms exist. How do you know what is the best platform for your organization?