More than 97 percent of large companies in America (over 5,000 employees) offer employee assistance programs (EAPs), for those needing a professional to talk over personal or family issues with. Even 75-80 percent of medium-sized and smaller companies make EAP services available to employees.

These are usually free, even to employees who don’t opt for the company’s health insurance plans. For many organizations, better supported employees can translate into improved productivity, decreased absenteeism and greater employee satisfaction.

But despite their low or no cost, only about 6.9 percent of North American employees take advantage of EAP services. Why is that? Here are the top reasons.

1. Employees Don’t Know What EAPs Are.

Like most industries, there’s a lot of jargon floating around in human resources (HR). As such, a lot of employees don’t really understand what EAPs are all about, which could be to their own detriment. EAPs have changed a lot since the field started 50 years ago to identify and help alcoholic employees. By monitoring job performance and intervening before things got too out of control, this saved everyone a lot of money and heartache.

Today, EAPs typically deal with a much wider range of issues, including depression, stress, drug abuse, relationship problems, career issues, health and wellness, financial and legal concerns and family care (children and elders, specifically). Employees should also see EAPs as a solution in the workplace for issues that are not limited to just work.

2. EAPs are Hard to Navigate.

Although EAPs offer a lot of potentially helpful assistance, all that information can be hard to wade through. The burden usually falls on HR professionals to communicate the various features of an EAP program. Many people believe that EAPs are underutilized because they’re often bundled onto other products and services and poorly communicated.

3. Employees Are Scared to Divulge Personal Information.

Even though EAP services are confidential, employees are worried that the information may somehow be leaked to management. In fact, EAP participation rates are usually better in companies where the management is deemed trustworthy.

But either way, employees should know that information divulged to an EAP professional will be only be released to their supervisor with the employee’s permission. The employee will usually have to sign a written statement regarding what information may be released and to whom. This is rare and likely to come up only if the issue is one that might directly affect employment — such as someone who struggles with alcoholism and operates heavy machinery. Otherwise, your employer would never even be notified that you have used EAP services for any reason.

4. The Issue Might Seem Too Small.

EAPs are not only for people dealing with substance abuse or mental illness. They can also help employees needing a will drawn up or help with their diet. Many individuals don’t think about the EAP when addressing more personal and general issues such as work/life balance, nutrition and physical fitness and other wellness offerings. HR could up the EAP participation rates by reminding employees such services exist and are free to use.

Not every EAP service will have the same offerings so check with your provider or HR department to find out what’s covered, and whether you can get face-to-face visits as well as phone calls or online interaction.

EAPs have the ability to not only help individuals, but they can also save employer lots of valuable resources such as time, money, and productivity.

NARFA offers comprehensive benefit programs and the EAP is a part of it. We encourage you to take advantage of the programs your employer offers. Since 1929 NARFA has provided member businesses and their employees with programs exclusive to members and not available on the open market.

Contact us to learn more about how NARFA can work with you to thrive during uncertain times.



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