Leading corporate health and wellbeing and specialist rehabilitation and case management provider HCML’s newly released corporate health and wellbeing report has found that the low take-up of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) is costing businesses. The survey found that while 79% of employers provide an EAP, only 27% of employees realise an EAP exists in their workplace. Furthermore nearly 85% of employers said the utilisation of their EAP was just 3-5%.  This indicates that many EAPs are a wasted resource, costing organisations money and not delivering what is needed in terms of employee help and lowering absence days.

The HCML report found that whilst 88.5% of employers feel it is their role to support employee health and wellbeing and 52% of employees want more support from their employer to improve their health and wellbeing, there is a lack of understanding surrounding what is available and the perceived uptake of healthcare offerings by employees.

The figures suggest confusion from both employers and staff on what their EAPs offer. This may be due to a lack of communication or employees not knowing what their EAP offers if they have not needed to use it. With workplace absence hitting a 10-year high and the cost implications of sick days, an EAP can help employees, as long as both employers and employees understand its purpose. Most EAPs focus on mental health conditions offering signposting or talking therapies as necessary. However, HCML suggests incorporating support for wider lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, musculoskeletal complaints and lack of exercise that often contribute to ill health and workplace absence. These factors often influence mental health, so addressing these can help prevent further episodes of ill health. The survey suggests that many organisations provide EAPs that are not fit for purpose for their workforce.

Pamela Gellatly, Strategic Development Director, HCML,  says: “Our research makes it clear that the right support is not being offered.  A rise in sickness absence, particularly when it comes to mental health, shows that existing EAPs are not really identifying or addressing the issues. This is because many EAPs on the market offer a one-size-fits-all approach which is not representative of the different demographics within any business and the varying complexities which make up mental health conditions.

“Instead, there is a need for EAPs now to offer a ‘whole person’ approach. For example, only 16% of those surveyed say that their EAP offers Musculoskeletal support, despite around a third of the nation suffering from MSK conditions, and less than a third say their EAP offers nutrition support. We see digestive issues as one of the main reasons for ill health across our clients and are well aware of the impact this has on people’s mental health. Therefore, an EAP that offers this kind of support can be extremely effective in supporting employee health and wellbeing, and reducing absence.”

The HCML corporate health and wellbeing report found the top five areas of health and wellbeing support that employees want are good nutrition including food and drink (38%), how to keep active (36%), how to sleep well (36%), how to maintain a positive attitude (35%) and how to manage weight (30%).

Pamela Gellatly, added “When we look at our own data taken from over 120,000 cases, we know that 85% of ill health has an underlying cause or contributory risk factor that is non-clinical, including issues such as weight, sleep and nutrition. This highlights the importance of finding a health and wellbeing solution that can address underlying causation and risk factors to reduce the risk of ill health in the workplace and by proxy the worsening issue of workplace absence. We’ve found that through our enhanced EAP offering, engagement is much higher because of the services offered.”