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Employee assistance is not a cheap, box-ticking investment

Published by: David Shearman,

retail worker
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have been around in some form for nearly thirty years in the UK and perhaps a decade longer in North America. Originally sold as a counseling service, EAPs have transitioned into a valuable work-life support service that can help employees with practical everyday concerns such as child or eldercare issues, debt management, legal support to career development as well as psychological help.

While research says 97% of employers now provide an EAP, utilization figures remain shockingly low, averaging at around 2-3%. All too often, companies deploy an EAP because they feel they ‘ought’ to as a tick-box exercise and want it as cheaply as possible as a result.

Because EAP is seen as a low-cost benefit it’s therefore treated like one. Common issues are buying an EAP to only meet duty of care, lack of awareness amongst staff, stigma attached to using it, failure to promote it as a confidential service and apathy to evaluate utilization or return on investment.

But when poor health is costing businesses up to £57 billion a year in lost productivity and one in six workers now suffer from a stress condition, why aren’t companies waking up to the significant benefits. There is a tremendous opportunity for them to play a transformational role in total employee wellbeing and positively influence the employee experience. Indeed, EAPs provide the solution that meet many of the recommendations in the recent UK Thriving at Work report on mental health and employers.

Far from the traditional reactive counseling support, EAPs that leverage mobile technology provide an employee-centric platform that supports mental, physical, financial and social wellness, proactively. Staff literally have work-life and wellness tools at their fingertips, helping them to manage and prevent challenges.

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