Some of the most effective and best support available for employees can also be some of the most underutilised. Towergate Health & Protection has looked at what holds employees back from using employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and why they should make more use of them.
Towergate Health & Protection has collated key myths that its experience finds deters employees from accessing EAPs, along with the truths that may encourage them to seek support where needed:
Myth: Information will be shared with my employer.
Truth: This is simply not the case. All information is dealt with in complete confidence.
Myth: EAPs just deal with mental health issues.
Truth: EAPs cover a whole host of issues, including legal information, consumer or civil disputes, tax information, medical information and structured counselling..
Myth: They are only available 9am to 5pm.
Truth: Many EAPs operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Myth: It will be expensive for employees.
Truth: EAPs often come as a cost-free addition with other benefits. Even as a standalone benefit, the cost is borne by the employer. It is some of the least expensive support employers can offer, and doesn’t count as a benefit in kind for income tax purposes, so is entirely free to the employees.
Myth: They can only be accessed by phone.
Truth: There are often lots of support hubs and online assistance options also included. These may be more suitable for anyone working from home and not wanting others in the house to hear their calls, or those in an open-plan office with colleagues nearby. There are also significant resources available online providing a wealth of extra support, guidance and information. Video counselling sessions are an option for those based in remote areas who want the human interaction of face-to-face discussions.
Myth: They are only there for the big issues.
Truth: EAPs are there for anything that is causing an employee concern or anxiety. Seriousness is not a factor. EAPs can also signpost to provide further support if needed.
Myth: There are limits on the number of times an employee can contact them, or limits on the number of issues an individual employee can contact them about.
Truth: Most EAPs do not have any limits on the number of times an employee can contact them, whether regarding the same issue or a number of different matters.
Myth: EAPs are not for managerial-level employees
Truth: EAPs can help support managers in a variety of ways, including stress management, conflict resolution, communicating change, work/life balance, time management, return to work support, and workplace bullying. Some EAPs also offer support services specifically aimed at line managers, such as supporting team members with sickness absence or emotional health problems.
EAPs may come as a standalone benefit, or as part of a private medical insurance or group risk policy, they are a great resource with a wealth of advice, information, expertise, and support to offer, but are often underutilised. EAPs can be a valued employee benefit but only if employees are aware of them, the services on offer, and how to access assistance.
It is important for employers to communicate the benefits of the EAP they provide. EAPs do not all provide the same options. If employees are to appreciate and value the provision, then they need to understand what is available to them.
Benefits to the company
“EAPs provide benefits and value to the company itself,” says Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection. “While helping a company to fulfil its duty of care, EAPs can also enhance reputation, support employee engagement, recruitment and retention. The company also benefits from increased employee wellbeing and improved morale. Considering that EAPs are often included within other benefits, with no additional cost, they really are a huge positive all-round and we’d encourage employers to make sure they’re being fully utilised.”