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Why You Need an Employee Assistance Program

Published May 23, 2021 (last updated on April 26, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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Employees are the foundation of your business, and they need looking after. Some employers offer extra benefits as part of an employee health and safety or wellness plan. An employee assistance programme (EAP) can offer your employees (and often their families) support – for example counselling – to help them cope with workplace issues and personal problems that could have a negative effect on their work performance.

What is an employee assistance programme? 

An EAP provides work-based short-term problem-solving and counselling services aimed at improving the emotional, mental and general health of employees.

EAP services may include:

  • Access to free and confidential professional counselling for work and personal issues

  • Health promotion information e.g. diet, smoking cessation, etc

  • Fitness and relaxation information and exercise programs

  • Training e.g. time management, learning other coping skills.

Work and personal issues include relationship, marital, financial, gambling, (mental) health, trauma, communication or substance and alcohol abuse problems. An EAP enables your employee to reach out in confidence to a qualified professional to help identify and resolve these problems.

Benefits of employee assistance programmes 

Research shows that a business that is supportive of employee wellbeing often sees an increase in productivity and employee engagement and has better access to, and retention of, talented recruits.

Improves productivity 

report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers shows that the estimated cost to businesses in Australia when employers do not manage mental health within the workplace is in excess of 10.9 billion dollars a year.

The good news is that they also claim that for every dollar spent creating a healthy workplace you get a positive return on your investment, (particularly in smaller organisations) in terms of employee productivity, and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (where an employee is at work but is not being productive) as well as reduced amounts of workers compensations claims.

Helps attract talent 

Another key benefit of a supportive workplace is that  employees in Australia consider this kind of business more attractive to work for. Offering an EAP as part of your employee benefits helps to retain employees as well as attract top talent.

Support for managers 

Managers play an important part in supporting a healthy workplace, and in turn need support to be effective. Managers influence their direct reports positively by setting examples of healthy habits, providing leadership, guidance and support, rewarding and recognising employee contributions as well as flagging any issues or changes in behaviour early on.

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Further tips to support employees

  • Put formal strategies in place to identify mental health issues and promote wellbeing in the form of workplace policies and procedures and make sure employees are aware of the policies and resources that are available. BrightHR allows you to store employee profiles and key documents such as contracts and handbooks securely in the cloud and determine employee access. You can upload updated polices and handbooks, set reminders and notifications of key dates, and get read receipts once your employees have accessed the latest version.

  • Think about providing employees with flexible working arrangements to encourage a work-life balance.

  • Invest in training and development so employees have the appropriate skills and resources to carry out their role.

  • Reward and recognise your employees for a job well done; verbal acknowledgment goes a long way in making an employee feel appreciated and increasing job satisfaction.

  • Offer benefits such as paid ‘mental health’ days, subsidised gym memberships, or lunch time yoga sessions, if possible.

  • Encourage employees to stay healthy by insisting upon safe hygiene practices in the workplace and providing flu/COVID-19 shots, or giving employees paid time off to get vaccinated. BrightHR has a VaccTrak App that allows you to monitor which employees have been vaccinated, and BrightSafe provides online e-learning modules to educate your employees regarding health and safety and hygiene issues.

  • Keep an eye on your employees so you can see if there are any changes to their behaviour that may indicate a problem. Make sure workloads are manageable and that overtime is reasonable. BrightHR has a Blip tool which allows employees to clock on and off so you can track their time and location. You can generate a report that will show the number of shifts and hours worked, breaks and their duration and the total number of hours worked excluding those breaks.

  • Adopt an open-door policy and be supportive if issues arise – perhaps by offering employees leave (paid or unpaid), reallocating tasks or revisiting their workload.

If you need help to help your employees, call us for free initial advice on 1300 651 415.

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