Questions to ask before choosing an EAP

The choice of EAPs is wide, ranging from small, dedicated, niche EAPs right up to the huge providers like Axa Icas and Unum that also provide medical insurance.

One provider might offer a stand-alone EAP, another might have a more coordinated policy. You need to study what is available, and spend time on your research.

Eugene Farrell is business manager at AXA ICAS and chairman of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA).

“Assess what you want out of the programme,” says Farrell. “It’s not just about price – though if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Good value is about getting a good quality of service as well as a fair price. Look at things such as how the EAP is measured, how information about it is fed back to you, and how the outcomes are measured.

“What outcome measures do they have? And what outcome measures are you looking for? Assess the amount of promotion they are planning to use, some include the cost of literature in the price, others don’t. Find out whether promotion days are built into the scheme. All of these can add to the price.
“Promoting the scheme clearly is key to the success of the EAP – both at the outset and when the scheme is in place. Staff need to know that the EAP is available to them, and what it offers.”

How do you decide if an EAP provider is right for you needs?

  • Be clear about your organisational needs and the expectations you have of an EAP.
  • Ask about the management information you will receive. You need clear and accurate data that you can use to enhance your strategic goals.
  • Look for evidence that a provider is able to deliver on its promise – some providers can tell a good story but you need to be sure there is evidence behind it.
  • Check that the provider is a member of the relevant professional bodies. In the UK there are two key organisations, the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) is the professional body for the industry, and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the professional body for counselling. All EAPs have components of both of these and should be registered with both.
  • Are the EAP’s individual counsellors and practitioners accredited? Some organisations offer “equivalent to” but this does not offer any evidence or external validation of the ability and qualities of the counsellor. 

What are the pros and cons of different sorts of provider?

  • With a straight EAP provider the boundaries – in particular with confidentiality – and focus are very clear. If the EAP is a bolt-on to other benefits it may not receive the same focus from the supplier and you may want to ensure there is no potential compromise of confidentiality. One of the benefits of a full EAP provider is the ability to be flexible according to the needs of the customer; they can normally provide solutions to all needs, but the downside is they are inevitably more expensive. 
  • Services provided through brokers may offer fewer features, less flexibility and a lower level of qualification in counselling. On the other hand, they can be less expensive. 
  • Remember, ultimately the pros and cons are depend upon your specific needs as an organisation.

What pricing models are there and how do you decide which is right for you?

  • Decide what is right for you by speaking to the provider, comparing different estimates and being clear about every aspect of the service you will need, and the likely cost of every item.
  • There are basically two models: “all inclusive”, where you pay a fixed amount to cover all services, and “as used”, where the fee is based on the amount of use the service gets.   
  • You will need to select from a range of packages from the most basic through to fully comprehensive ones, depending on factors such as the level of reporting back on service-use that you need. The key question is how much you want to get out of the EAP. Is it chiefly for the benefit of staff and to demonstrate you are discharging your duty of care, or do you intend to use management data from it to tackle trouble spots in particular departments or regions, or to monitor trends in employee engagement and satisfaction?  
  • If you want to add to the service later you may want to consider modular services where you pay an additional amount for bolt-ons.

(With thanks to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association and Right Corecare.)


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