What are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)?
EAPs are part of a comprehensive benefits package that employers may provide for their employees. EAPs are frequently offered in conjunction with employer health insurance plans and are intended to support employee health, wellness and work performance through both intervention and prevention.
EAPs can function as an external support by helping employees to address personal or work-related issues while remaining engaged and productive in the workplace. EAPs can help employees and their family members balance the demands of work and personal life, while supporting employers' desire for high workplace productivity. The majority of large U.S. employers provide EAP benefits to employees and their family members.
Percentage of Employers Offering EAPs
- 52% of small employers (companies employing 1 - 99 people) offer EAPs
- 76% of mid-sized employers (companies employing 100 - 499 people) offer EAPs
- 89% of large employers (companies employing more than 500 people) offer EAPs 
What do EAPs do?
EAPs provide confidential services, free of charge to employees (and often the family members of employees). Employees can self-refer for services, or employers may require their participation under certain circumstances (e.g., in the event of a significant workplace conflict or issue).
EAPs may be designed to assist employees in addressing:
- Workplace and productivity issues
- Life events
- Financial or legal issues
- Disability or illness
- Personal challenges
- Other issues that the employee may not feel comfortable discussing with a supervisor or human resources representative.
Many EAPs provide:
- An initial phone screening to determine eligibility and identify appropriate services
- Short-term counseling and support
- Comprehensive websites with articles on health, financial and legal topics
- Referrals to other providers when long-term support is needed
Why do employers offer EAPs?
Many employers opt to offer EAPs because of the potential organizational benefits, including significant cost savings.
The benefits to employers can include:
- Reduced absenteeism and turnover
- Increased retention
- Increased productivity
- Cost savings in medical, disability, or workers' compensation claims
- Development of a reputation as an employee-focused organization
- Reduced strain on HR staff and managers as employees are better able to access appropriate supports for personal or workplace issues
- Increased employee engagement
- Improved responsiveness of and support for staff related to organizational and personal issues, including :
- Support during periods of pending or actual workplace or workforce changes
- Supports for accommodation efforts and return-to-work
- Performance review guidance for managers
- Training and education
- Coaching and consulting
- Disability and risk management services
How are EAPs related to Disability Management and Return to Work?
Increasingly, EAPs work in collaboration with Disability Management and Return-to-Work (RTW) programs for employees who become ill, injured or disabled.
EAPs can coordinate services and supports for employees and family members to facilitate return to the workplace. A coordinated approach to providing physical and behavioral health supports and stress-management intervention has been shown to improve employee health and work performance.
How do Employers Manage EAPs?
Most employers contract with a third-party provider to manage their EAP. Some companies rely on other vendors or contracted employees for specialized services including financial advisors, attorneys, or specialists in work-life balance, elder care, and workplace transition.
Employee Assistance Programs for a New Generation of Employees<http://www.dol.gov/odep/documents/employeeassistance.pdf>
The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) defines Employee Assistance Programs and elaborates on the benefits of these programs for both employees and employers. The new millennium generation of workers are defined and their EAP needs are considered.
Employer Success Story: Levis Strauss and Company <http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/HIVAIDS/success/Levis.htm>
This success story discusses Levi Strauss and Company's long-standing committment to workplace and community HIV/AIDS outreach to increase understanding of the issue, reduce HIV infections, and address stigma and discrimination. It includes discussion of their development of an EAP-like program specifically tailored for employees with HIV/AIDS.