Employee Assistance Programs

31 July 2021

Creating and sustaining a healthy, productive work environment can be extremely challenging, particularly in times like these, when remote working, isolation and health risks provide additional stresses. Keeping on top of the wellbeing of all, from the student right up to the Principal or Director, can be a constant challenge.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) aim to improve wellbeing among employees and their families, and to offer expert on-call assistance when needed. Early intervention can help alleviate stress and reduce the likelihood and severity of serious work-based and personal problems.

What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Program (or EAP) is a voluntary, confidential counselling service that offers employees and employers access to medical and allied health advice and support. The aim is to support wellbeing in the workplace, tackling family and personal issues, as well as work-related concerns. Separating home from work is often difficult these days, so depending on the arrangement of the practice, EAP may also extend to immediate family members.

Each EAP provider is different, but the types of services they provide include everything from wellness apps, training, presentations and information sessions, to confidential assessments, short-term counselling and referrals for further psychological support.

What are the benefits?

EAP Assist offers the following list of benefits:

  1. Increased performance and productivity
  2. Reduced absenteeism, conflict and occupational stress
  3. Improved staff morale, employee retention and recruitment
  4. Reduced worker’s compensation and other costs
  5. Improved employee satisfaction
  6. Enhanced employer-employee relationships

Who develops the programs?

EAP programs are generally developed and delivered by psychologists, social workers and counsellors.

How does it work?

A business will typically pay for an annual EAP plan, with a designated number of hours of counselling included for the year. The smaller plans tend to have a higher hourly rate, while the larger plans offer a more cost-effective rate per session. If a practice exceeds the hours within that plan, it’s usually possible to top up the plan.

How are counselling sessions organised?

The majority of counselling sessions are of a voluntary nature, with an employee contacting the EAP provider directly to discuss their concerns. However, sessions may also be accessed through a guided referral, when an employer identifies potential problems and encourages the employee to use the service. There are also more formal or mandatory EAP referrals, which usually relate to poor performance or a substance abuse issue.

Are the sessions confidential?

Typically, personal information relating to the content of the counselling is kept strictly confidential by the EAP provider, giving the employee a safe space to share their situation or concerns. Exceptions might occur if the employee gives written consent to break this confidentiality, where there is a legal obligation to do so, or if there is an immediate risk of harm to the employee or others.

Who offers this service?

There are many EAP providers, each with a different suite of services, plans and costs. The Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australia (EAPAA) has an extensive list of providers on their website, including national services as well as local, state-based offerings.

The ACA is trialling an Employee Assistance Program, which delivers a high-quality EAP from LifeWorks at a fraction of the cost for ACA members.