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An EAP is an employer-sponsored program that offers services or referrals to help employees deal with personal problems. Traditionally, the focus was drug and alcohol abuse, but many employers have expanded programs to include a variety of issues.
When employees are distracted by stressful personal or life situations, they are unfocused at work and tend to be absent more often. Their health may suffer as a result, leading to higher medical costs. Obviously, these circumstances are undesirable for an employer, but it is costly to recruit and train a replacement for the struggling employee, especially if that individual was formerly, and has the potential to once again be, a valuable asset to the company.
A better solution for many employers is to offer their employees assistance in handling their personal issues in order to improve their situations and regain their former productivity levels and value to the company. EAPs can provide that assistance. Once an EAP is implemented, it can help the employer attract and retain employees, lower health care and disability claims costs, increase productivity and morale, and lower absenteeism.
In addition, any government contractors or employers receiving federal grants are required to maintain a drug-free workplace. Part of fulfilling that requirement can include an EAP with a drug-free component that offers education, awareness, testing and counseling.
EAPs vary from employer to employer, but most have common elements. The most important consideration is whether the problems and issues covered are ones that adversely affect the employee’s job performance. Typical issues addressed include the following:
Depending how an EAP is structured, it could offer employee education, evaluation, hotlines, counseling and/or referrals. It could be an in-house program, outsourced through an independent EAP provider or a combination of the two.
There are different types of EAPs, but research suggests that the most effective ones offer more comprehensive services and integrate with the employer’s health plan, prescription drug plan, disability benefits and wellness program. Integration can allow the EAP to serve as a preventive measure to address lifestyle issues that could lower health care and disability costs in the long run.