Employee assistance programmes, or EAPs, are one of the most popular ways to support employee wellbeing in today’s workplaces, with an estimated 96% of UK organisations offering an EAP to their workforce. So what is an EAP, and what can they do?
In short, an employee assistance programme is a confidential and voluntary support service provided by employers to assist their employees with any issues that may be affecting their mental and emotional wellbeing. EAP benefits can vary depending on the specific EAP provider, ranging from access to short-term counselling to provision of wellbeing resources for everyday awareness.
Employee assistance programmes have seen a massive usage increase in recent years. Research has found that an EAP’s return on investment now stands at an incredible £10.85 for every £1 spent as employers utilise their EAP to not only improve stress management and everyday wellbeing but make a real difference in the lives of their employees. In fact, a recent report by the EAPA found that as many as 68% of employees who had contacted their EAP provider went on to access short-term counselling – an alarming figure that points to an earnest and growing need for employer-led access to mental health care among today’s workforce.
However, the same research indicates that many employees still don’t access their EAP benefits to their full capacity. While at its highest ever peak since the introduction of the first employee assistance programmes back in the 1970s, EAP usage still sits only at around 12% – so how can you make sure that your employees are making the most of your investment?
Did you know that with the Medicash Employee Assistance Programme, we don’t just promote mental wellbeing – but physical, too? Find out more about the ways our EAP is designed to support your entire workforce with their mental, financial, menopause, and health concerns, as well as much more, at our blog.
Why might employees not utilise their EAP benefits?
There are many reasons why a workforce may not utilise their full employee assistance programme. EAP usage is dependent on great communication between employer and employee, making a solid understanding and awareness of your EAP benefits a must have for your HR and leadership teams.
Here’s a few of the reasons we’ve heard from customers about why they’ve not picked up their EAP;
- Concerns about confidentiality – As many EAP services are underpinned by a telephone or virtual helpline service where employees can discuss their personal, work, or even financial concerns, many employees may feel worried that their sensitive information may be shared with their employer. That’s why it’s important to know that EAP providers such as Medicash ensure that all support is completely confidential between the provider, the employee, and where necessary, their healthcare or treatment provider.
- Stigma – Unfortunately, despite massive leaps in awareness and understanding surrounding mental health, there remains a lasting stigma against approaching avenues of help. This is particularly so for men, who are statistically less likely to seek help for mental health concerns, yet is a particular issue for working people in general as surveys suggest that almost 60% of employees feel uncomfortable discussing mental health in the workplace.
- Misunderstanding of benefits – Poor information and communication on EAP benefits can be a major drop-off point when it comes to EAP usage. From worries about how long the process will take to uncertainties about the qualifications of the person spoken to, employees who don’t understand their employee assistance programme are less likely to take advantage of it.
- Lack of awareness – Our survey on the Employee Benefits Rift found that around 1 in 10 employees aren’t aware of their employer-paid healthcare benefits – that includes your organisation’s EAP! In fact, lack of awareness is one of the main reasons for employees missing out on their EAP benefits – let’s look into how you can help avoid this!
Who should promote my organisation’s EAP?
While promoting your organisation’s employee assistance programme often comes down to your HR or wellbeing team, introducing an EAP is a great opportunity to help your leadership and management team to get involved with your workplace wellbeing strategy. In fact, recent surveys show that as many as 67% of organisations report that their managers have bought into the importance of wellbeing – up from just 58% in 2020, indicating an uptake in managerial support for benefits such as EAPs that can help to inspire and inform employees from all levels.
In addition, your EAP provider should always make it easy for you to communicate your EAP benefits to your employees with support materials and resources to promote across your workforce.
For Medicash customers, that means quick and convenient access to our dedicated Promotional Materials Download Centre directly from your Medicash Portal.
Best practices for promoting your EAP
You’ve got your managers and leadership team on board, you’ve got your promotional resources downloaded – what next? Here’s our top five ways to promote and improve awareness of your employee assistance programme to help your team make the most of their benefits, improve their work performance, and boost their overall wellbeing:
- Improve understanding of your EAP benefits – Many employees may be uncertain about their EAP usage, the support on offer, or whether their service will be confidential. Consider using – or putting together – a guide to how your EAP works, such as the Medicash Maximise Your EAP guide, available for Medicash clients via the Promotional Materials Download Centre. This can include a visual guide to the short-term counselling referral system, more information on confidentiality and safeguarding, or convenient access to on-the-go EAP benefits (such as the Medicash EAP’s Your Care platform, offering on-demand features including stress management support and everday health indicators.)
- Host a wellbeing benefits day – Do you offer a suite of healthcare and wellbeing benefits such as a health cash plan, private medical insurance, or a dedicated workplace wellbeing strategy in addition to your employee assistance programme? Consider hosting a wellbeing benefits day in your workplace where employees from all levels can find more information about the range of benefits you offer, sign up to benefit schemes, and even access dedicated health screening services!
- Offer manager training – When your line managers support your wellbeing strategy, inspiring your full workforce becomes easier than ever. Offer dedicated manager training on your employee assistance programme and other health & wellbeing benefits to make sure they’re fully up to speed with your full range of EAP benefits. Why not also consider the managers’ wellbeing training offered by our Health@Work colleagues to help improve your leadership team’s overall wellbeing awareness for to help inspire better work performance?
- Encourage and provide feedback – Word-of-mouth is the best way of encouraging EAP usage among your team. Encourage your employees to share their feedback and experiences of using your employee assistance programme with their colleagues – and with you? You may find that your EAP helps to identify areas of development for your workplace wellbeing strategy, or even exciting new ideas for your EAP provider to improve their service!
- Advertise your new employee assistance programme – The key to a successful EAP rollout is in how you communicate your amazing new benefits to your team. Using the resources provided by your EAP provider, you can promote the various ways your employee assistance programme can be used to support employee wellbeing not just at work, but at home or on the go.
With enthusiastic promotion, your EAP can become the foundation of your organisation’s wellbeing strategy – offering not just mental health support for when times get hard, but everyday financial, emotional, and physical health health support to keep on top of those everyday issues before they become bigger problems.
To find out more about the Medicash Employee Assistance Programme available alongside your Medicash health cash plan, visit our EAP page or click here to read an overview of our new EAP provider at our blog.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a standalone Employee Assistance Programme, visit our colleagues at Health@Work for more information on their range of combination and standalone employee benefits, including a comprehensive EAP service, here.