Employee Assistance Programs

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Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are evolving, and they are doing a lot more than they have in the past, something that human resources staff should be aware of.

As companies look for economical and effective ways to help employees stay happy and productive, EAPs now are providing a lot of new and different services, in addition to substance abuse counseling, which has been their traditional niche, according to Rebecca Vesely of Workforce Management.

EAPs now deal with a range of problems that come under the heading of behavioral and mental health, such as helping workers deal with stress and work-life programs. Because of the recession many companies have cut back on their workforce, and those employees who remain are expected to carry more of the load, leading to more worker stress. As a result, EAPs are adapting to help people with this problem.

EAPs also are helping employees with such things as finding a tax accountant, a divorce lawyer, child care, wedding planners, even plumbers. EAPs are helping employees with refinancing a mortgage and sorting through healthcare programs. EAPs are getting a lot of calls about financial and legal services, a sign that workers are still struggling in the down economy.

More than half of the contacts with EAPs today involve some type of financial issue, according to EAP officials. And the issue with which EAPs deal with are more complex than in the past. A survey of EAPs found that about 20 percent of calls involved child care, 15 percent elder care, 30 percent moving, and 10 percent healthcare.

EAPs more recently have begun to get involved in management training programs as employers cut back in this area to save money. EAPs are providing help over the telephone or through Web-based communication for employers dealing with problem employees.

But even though EAPs are doing a lot more, and more people are using them, not many employees use their services overall. Nationwide, only about three percent of the workforce has used an EAP. To get more employees involved with EAPs and what they offer, companies need to communicate better with employees about EAP services.

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