Employee Assistance Program

Last updated: September 27, 2018

What Does Employee Assistance Program Mean?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a benefits program offered by some employers to their employees.

It typically consists of confidential, short-term counseling services that are designed to help employees with personal problems that affect their work performance.

Safeopedia Explains Employee Assistance Program

These programs are typically funded by the employer, are provided by an external third party, and constitute part of a larger company health and wellness plan. EAPs began in the 1940s with programs designed to address the large prevalence of industrial alcoholism in workplaces. Today, EAPs offer a variety of services to employees. They are also typically open to members of the employee’s immediate family under the rationale that the employee’s work performance could be affected by stress caused by issues at home.

Modern EAPs provide a large variety of services designed to support employee wellness. Thirty-three percent of all nonpublic workplaces in the United States have assistance programs, with larger firms (1,000 employees) being the most likely to have a program (76%). The sectors with the largest prevalence of EAPs are communications, utilities, and transportation (52% of firms), while the lowest prevalence is found in the mining, construction, and service industries (25%).

The particular services offered by an EAP depend on the specific program contracted by the employer. They frequently include counseling on job stress, relationship issues, harassment, substance abuse, work-life balance, and family violence. Some EAPs also offer health promotion and fitness advice related to issues such as weight control, exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation, as well as advice related to chronic issues such as long-term illness and disability. They may also deal with crisis situations, such as a death at work.

EAP services are provided to employees through the use of a referral agent who is charged with connecting a given employee seeking assistance to an individual who is professionally qualified to provide that service. Employees can access program services through a self-referral, or they may receive a formal mandate to use an EAP to address a job performance issue that has been recognized by the employer. In the latter case, any counseling or other services rendered remain strictly confidential and are not reported to the employer.


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