Do you know whether your prospective or current employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP)? This unique perk is increasingly common in benefits packages, but many job candidates and employees aren't clear on what an EAP is or how it can help them. They come in many shapes and sizes, but EAPs on the whole provide free, specialized services to enhance your work-life balance.
What is an employee assistance program?
EAPs are designed to supplement standard benefits packages and help employees overcome personal issues that might interfere with their job responsibilities and productivity. EAPs fill the gaps of standard benefits plans and were the first real attempt by many employers to safeguard the mental well-being of their employees. These popular programs are a win-win: Employees enjoy access to much-needed services, and, with positive results, employers enjoy productive workers.
What services are included?
Although the exact offerings of an employee assistance program vary from company to company, an EAP typically provides workers confidential help in the following areas:
- Substance abuse – Helping employees cope with issues surrounding drug and alcohol abuse was an original purpose of EAPs. Today, many programs offer access to professional counsellors who can help employees overcome addiction. If the company's program does not offer free counselling, you can obtain referrals.
- Conflict resolution – Many EAPs offer mediation and conflict resolution services to assist employees with relationship issues at home or in the office. Mediation is a very common feature of EAPs, but if it is not available, program administrators can give you a referral.
- Counselling and mental health services – EAPs can provide counselling services for workers dealing with marital problems, parenting issues, depression, anxiety or other concerns. You can also receive mental health screenings and therapy referrals if needed. Depending on the stipulations of your program, such services may be available free of charge.
- Career transition services – If you lose your job, the EAP can help during the transitional period by offering counselling and resources related to finding a new job.
- Retirement and financial planning – Counsellors in the employee assistance program can help you navigate simple tasks, such as creating a budget, as well as major financial decisions, such as planning for retirement or buying a home.
- Confidentiality – This lets you speak freely with counsellors without worrying about ramifications or gossip at work.
- Round-the-clock help – Many EAPs have 24-hour hotlines that you can call immediately when you need help, rather than waiting and worrying.
Plan ahead by finding out whether your prospective employer or current workplace offers an employee assistance program and, if so, what benefits are included in it. That way, when a big financial decision or a personal challenge comes up, you'll be ready to tap into the valuable services that are available to you.