Employee Assistance Programs

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a benefit paid for by employers to help alleviate the personal problems of employees that affect workforce productivity. This includes but is not limited to financial, alcohol, drug, legal, stress, emotional, marital, or parental problems. An EAP will not solve an employee's problems, but can point them in the right direction to get help or offer short-term counseling services.

Employers can contract with an in-house EAP professional, but this is feasible only for very large companies. For the smaller business sector, an off-site professional or vendor can provide services on an as-needed basis. Ask about the cost, which may be calculated by the number of employees on staff rather than the actual instances of assistance. Employees in need of services may self-refer themselves or be referred by their supervisor.

Most medical-insurance plans, including HMOs, offer referrals for counseling services. The policy's standard copayments will apply, and this should be paid by the employee if there is no formal EAP in place. Encourage employees to see what options are available through their medical plan if they bring a personal problem to your attention.

You can find an employee assistance program professional by contacting the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) at www.eap-association.org. The association offers a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) credential through the Employee Assistance Certification Commission. An accredited professional can be located through the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA) at www.easna.org. Additionally, there may be a state Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in your area available to provide assistance. Before consulting with an individual or service, verify that the proper insurance, licensing, and credentials are in place and that federal and state privacy laws will be adhered to. Although your company may be paying for services, this does not mean that you may have access to any personal information other than what the employee chooses to share with you. Also, your company should be released from EAP liability.

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