EAPs justify investment according to new benchmark

An EAP, often included within a group income protection insurance policy, can be a cost-effective way of assisting with health and wellbeing problems

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) deliver return on investment according to data suggesting that employers can typically save more than £12 for every pound spent.

Major employers making use of a new EAP Calculator, developed by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Institute of Employment Studies (IES), are using the data to justify spending on wellbeing and mental health.

It follows last year’s government-commissioned Thriving at Work report by Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, which found that poor mental health was costing employers up to £42 billion and called for better understanding among employers of the value and impact of wellbeing services.

Initial figures from early trials by 30 employers, with an average of 2,000 employees, have shown an average return on investment of £12.21 per pound spent on their EAP.

Royal Mail Group, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and railway operator MTR Crossrail are among those employers who have trialled the EAP Calculator. It works by analysing data on variables such as absence rate, annual EAP cost, absence costs and productivity data.

Prof Stephen Bevan, who led the work at the IES, said there is limited existing evidence from UK employers on the value of EAPs, with most data emerging from “the very different context of the US”.

One American study has suggested a range of $4-10 return per dollar, and the Thriving at Work report highlighted a significant return for employers investing in mental health interventions, with an average of £4.20 for every £1.

“We need to be gathering more insights into what’s going on in UK organisations”, said Prof Bevan. “The more the EAP Calculator is used, the richer the dataset will be for creating benchmarks, the greater the insight which can be used to refine and update the methods behind. The stronger the measure, the greater credibility the figures will have for use with board executives and for purchasing decisions both around EAPs and wellbeing strategies more widely.”

Clara McSweeney, HR business partner at MTR Crossrail, said: “Calculating ROI is important as this helps us to measure the real benefit of the offering to staff and the value to the business overall. Using the calculator we can look at any trends within the data and then focus further wellbeing initiatives around trying to prevent the root causes of issues requiring EAP support.”

Neil Mountford, chair of EAPA UK, said: “Employers bear much of the burden of the costs of ill-health, chronic disease and incapacity, and they need to start having a much better grasp of which interventions help them mitigate against these costs.

“Making a case for investment into something like support on mental health has meant scratching around for impact on absence rates or relying on intangibles like the value for engagement and employer branding.”

He added that while EAPs are available to total of almost 14 million workers in the UK, very few EAP providers or employers have been able to collect data beyond basic take-up and satisfaction surveys.

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