The unsung hero of Employee Benefits, in our opinion it’s the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Helping employees to overcome what life throws at us in both our home and work lives, whether it’s a financial, legal or emotional issue, the EAP is there to help.
A key EAP benefit is fast access to ‘talking therapies’ for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression etc…, all without the need to see your GP first.
With a comprehensive EAP starting at around £10 per employee per annum, (often with a £500 minimum fee) this incredibly low-cost benefit, which is increasingly becoming tagged on to other benefits, often goes under the radar, however they are a key tool for promoting and combatting mental health in the workplace.
NHS data shows 1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime, essentially meaning even a small business with 4 plus employees are likely have someone actively experiencing mental health issues and needing support. In addition to this, mental illness is also on the rise. According to analysis of NHS Digital Data led by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as many as 4.3 million mental health referrals were made during 2021 – the highest number to date.
Putting aside the fact that taking care of your employees’ mental well-being is a good and proper thing to do, it’s obviously good for the business too.
Whether as a business, you have a full EAP, one that includes both face-to-face/video and telephone support, telephone only, or embedded within an insurance contract, such as a group income protection policy we believe it is of critical importance for all employers, large and small. But putting an EAP in place is only the first step, it should not be considered a “tick box exercise” it’s only worthwhile if your employees engage with it and understand how to get the best from it.
So, you have an EAP, now what can you do with it! Here are 5 tips:
#1: Employee Engagement
A strong launch or re-launch of an EAP program is a must. Quite often an EAP is initially launched then promoted via a poster on the staffroom wall or on the back of the loo door. Yes, it’s a reminder that it’s there however it will eventually become part of the furniture and forgotten. Given the use of technology it’s easier to have everyone in the same room, be that be virtually or physically. How about setting aside some time to remind your employees of what’s available to them and how it can make a difference to their lives? Ask some questions. Do you know how to use it? Do you know what it can provide? Do you know when to use it? Maybe provide some case studies or examples to how it could be used. Your EAP provider, or broker will be happy to give examples, just reach out to them. Understanding how it works in practice is a much better way of helping people remember when it will be useful and make a difference for them.
#2: Get Management On Board
Did you know that most EAP’s allow managers to refer staff on their behalf? A good management team will be in regular communication with employees alongside carrying out 1-2-1’s and ‘return to works’. If a manager picks up on an employee who is struggling, they can make the initial call to the EAP on the employee’s behalf (should they agree) and arrange for a trained professional to call them direct. For someone struggling with mental illness making that initial call could be a big step so having someone make this easier for them can be a good way to start to receive support. It’s also important for management and the whole business to understand the importance of mental health. There are a wide variety of mental health workshops and training available both free and paid for, so take advantage of the additional support available.
#3: Make The Most of Your EAP Provider
What else can your EAP provider do? Have you checked what resources they have? Do they have an online wellbeing portal? Can they help you with promotion and employee engagement?
#4: Am I Double Paying?
Many small businesses provide a range of Employee Benefits, many of which often come with fringe benefits, often this can include an EAP, in particular check your risk policies such as income protection and life insurance. It’s important to ascertain what could be there already and make the most of what you have. Yes, EAP is low cost but why pay more for something you already have? It can also confuse the claims pathways and data on usage that can be a real boon for employers in understanding the state of well-being within their workforce.
#5: Be Proactive!
Yes, the EAP is an unsung hero for helping those suffering with mental illness however wouldn’t it be even better if you could work to prevent it getting to that point in the first place? Of course, you can’t do this in every scenario however having a strong workplace wellbeing process and promoting positive mental health in the work place is a great place to start. Many small businesses are now having a dedicated Workplace Wellbeing Champion to encourage positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Once employees are aware of their EAP, how to use it and access the services, they are more likely to seek help when they need it – and quickly. There are a number of providers in the UK with differing costs and scope of cover. Let us know if you would like help in finding the right one for you.