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Implementing an Employee Assistance Program

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are not a new concept. In fact, many companies have had EAPs in place for a number of years. Still, we are finding that these are now at the forefront of almost every business agenda as we get into 2021.

The value of EAPs is increasing and numerous companies that previously didn’t have one in place are looking to develop one this year. If you’re like many other small-to-medium businesses who are exploring adding an EAP to your suite of employee benefits, below you’ll find a basic description of these programs, how it benefits employees and employers, and the best way to approach implementation.

What Is an Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program is an employer-sponsored benefit aimed at assisting employees with both personal and professional issues that may be interfering with their ability to perform their job duties. EAPs are designed with a holistic approach to wellness, with a greater focus on mental health, meaning they are meant to assist employees with personal problems that fall outside of their medical plans. EAPs act as a support system for employees dealing with stress and anxiety, family issues, substance abuse, workplace issues, depression, and much more.

EAPs connect employees with counselors and other resources to obtain the support they need. Most often, those resources are free to the employee and are accessible 24/7. EAPs are employer-sponsored typically through a third-party vendor, ensuring confidentiality and anonymity for the employee should they choose to utilize this benefit.

Employer Benefits of an Employee Assistance Program

When thinking of implementing an EAP for your employees as part of their benefits package, there are also many benefits for the employer as well. EAPs have proven to increase productivity and retention, decrease employee absences, improve culture, and prevent workplace incidents.

EAPs provide employees with a direct outlet for managing the things that are causing stress in their lives. If experiencing high levels of stress, employees can become sluggish and unmotivated, causing their work quality and productivity to suffer. By providing access to counseling, employees can manage what is affecting them and improve their attitude and focus, leading to greater productivity.

Overall, this type of program is meant to assist employees take control of whatever is going on that is negatively affecting them in order to prevent the issue from turning into something greater or affecting their health. When employees feel more relaxed and less anxious, they don’t need to take as many days off to manage added stress.

Having an EAP in place also shows employees that their company really cares about their health and well-being. This in turn, creates a culture of mutual respect and dedication. Employees are the most important asset of any business, so showing them their health is important and emphasizing self-care will create a mutually beneficial environment in the workplace.

Another area that employee assistance programs help with is workplace issues. Employers can suggest using the EAP when conflicts arise between co-workers, when the company goes through restructuring, or other events that can cause disruptions in the workplace. EAPs can reduce workplace incidents by discovering the root cause of an employee’s behavior before it becomes a larger issue.

We all realize that benefits in general are a great way to increase employee retention. Now more than ever, employees are looking for more holistic and well-rounded wellness programs from their employers and offering an EAP is a great way to satisfy that need. Employees know their employer provides resources they can use to manage issues outside of work—and at work—making them feel supported and appreciated. Employees who feel less stressed and more supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company longer.

Implementing an Employee Assistance Program

There are, of course, a few items to consider before implementing an EAP. Employers have the option to establish the program entirely in-house or outsource the program to a third-party administrator. Management-sponsored EAPs are an in-house program and is entirely staffed by the company. Larger organizations find this type of program to be the best option. Fixed-fee contract EAPs are third-party providers for specific services, such as counseling and trainings. The employer pays a fee based on the total number of employees employed by the company. Another popular choice is fee-for-service EAPs, where the employer pays a third-party provider only when the program is used.

The Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) requires certain items to be included in any EAP. Organizations should have a written policy around the EAP, defining the program’s relationship to the company and defining the scope of the service. There should also be a policy around client/employee confidentiality and established procedures regarding EAP professionals following-up and monitoring the employees who utilize the service.

EAPA also includes the following standards for EAPs:

  • A crisis intervention service that is available 24/7
  • Procedures for determining when to provide short-term services within the EAP, and when to refer an employee to professional or community resources outside the EAP
  • Training for the organization’s leaders, so they can learn to recognize issues and intervene by referring employees to the EAP
  • An advisory process involving representatives from all levels of the organization, including leadership, line employees, and other key departments
  • The flexibility to add services to meet changing needs


When selecting a third-party vendor for EAPs, it’s important to consider the vendor’s years of service, references, and current clients. It is also beneficial to determine if the EAP vendor provides services virtually for employees working remotely and what types of trainings they can offer managers and supervisors.

If an employee assistance program would benefit your employees and your business, QBS’s team of professionals is available to help. We offer a wide range of employee benefits through our PEO services and can help you find the right EAP for your business. Our team of human resource professionals will help you look for the right EAP vendor to provide the best support to your employees. If an in-house EAP is what you prefer, our team will assist you with developing and implementing an EAP policy that is compliant with EAPA and benefits both your business and your employees’ well-being.


Indeed- A Manager’s Guide to EAP: Employee Assistance Program

SHRM- Managing Employee Assistance Programs