Employee assistance programmes are still popular

The growing popularity of employee assistance programmes (EAPs) shows little sign of reaching a plateau, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Employment Review.

Although the Court of Appeal found that just having an EAP in place is not an absolute defence against claims for stress, the research shows that many employers see a clear business case for keeping their programmes.

According to some studies, as many as one in five employers now offers an EAP – defined as a confidential, free-to-use service that allows all employees (and sometimes their immediate families) to talk about problems with their work and home lives.

The Employment Review survey shows that most EAPs have a similar range of services. Most commonly, these include the provision of telephone information and advice (93%) and telephone counselling (91%).

Face-to-face counselling (71%) and the offer of a referral to a specialist adviser able to help with legal, tax or health problems (68%) are less common, but still widespread. More than half of EAPs (52%) also offer an advice service to help managers deal with workplace issues. But the survey suggests that most EAPs rely on personal contact: just one in three (33%) EAPs has a web-based element.

The findings are based on a survey of 127 employers, 76 of which offer an EAP. These 76 organisations together employ nearly 400,000 people.


Just one in 10 employees seeks help from EAP…

Most employers fund their employee assistance programmes on the basis of a fixed annual sum per employee, the Employment Review survey shows.

Although this figure varied widely, the median (or midpoint) sum was £14 per head. Larger employers were generally able to benefit from economies of scale, and typically paid less. While the bottom 25% of employers paid £6 per head or less for their EAP, the top 25% paid £22 or more – nearly four times as much.

The survey shows that about one in 10 of the workforce makes use of an EAP where it is provided. A quarter of EAPs are contacted by less than one in 20 (5%) of the workforce, while the most used EAPs are called on by one in six (17%) or more of employees.

EAPs operated by manufacturing companies are used less often than those run by services companies and public sector organisations. But there is little difference in take-up between public and private sector services.

Although smaller employers typically pay more per head to provide an EAP, there is little difference in the use made by employees of such programmes.


…but that is good enough for HR

Although only a tenth of employees make use of an employee assistance programme each year, the Employment Review survey shows that most HR practitioners believe they are good value for money.

Nearly one in three (31%) of those questioned said their EAP completely justified its cost. At the other end of the spectrum, only 1% said that it did not justify its cost at all.

The survey found that public sector employers were more than twice as likely (43%) as manufacturers (20%) to say that their EAP was entirely cost effective. Private sector services firms occupied the middle ground, with about one-third (32%) completely satisfied.

For more information, go to XpertHR

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