SUMMARY: Maximize your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to respond to mental health-related issues.

The following information is taken from Elements and Priorities for Working Toward a Psychologically Safer Workplace, courtesy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Some ideas to consider for maximizing your EAP's responsiveness to mental health-related issues:

  • Choices about the method of counselling offered – Counselling services should be available to suit a variety of individual preference, including a choice of face-to-face, e-counselling, telephone counselling or group sessions.
  • Stay at work services – This should include the ability to intervene before someone is off work to solve performance and/or conflict issues.
  • Education and information sessions related to workplace mental health for management and employees – Some organizations request up to 100 hours per year be included, but to be effective there must be incentives for employees to attend.
  • Assessment and referral services – This should include services for assessment or referral for assessment when mental illness is suspected, and links to relevant and credible resources.
  • Continuation of treatment after maximums are reached – Work to have options for employees to continue to contract with a specific EAP provider after the allotted sessions, by paying through other benefit amounts or out of their own pocket. It is important to have safeguards to ensure this is done for the benefit of the employee and not the provider.
  • Awareness of community resources – Request that your EAP counsellors become knowledgeable about and are able to refer employees to community resources for mental health issues, addiction and other related issues, where appropriate.
  • Provision of a mental health resource list – Request that the EAP provide a list of relevant community resources for employees.
  • Qualifications and expertise – Ensure EAP providers have a minimum standard of qualification and use evidence-based approaches, e.g., Master of Social Work (MSW) or psychologist.
  • Setting targets for EAP usage – Request that an average % of employees who will use EAPs be established. Put safeguards in place to help ensure that no charges be incurred for over-usage within the contract duration. This can help with budgeting and to ensure the plan supports more users to get the help needed.
  • Referral to appropriate service providers – Ensure there is a service that directs employees to the most appropriate provider with the expertise to provide support for their specific area of concern, e.g., addiction, couples counselling or eating disorders all require very different areas of expertise.

The above material reprinted with permission by the Mental Health Commission of Canada

The following questions and answers are reprinted with permission of the Employee Assistance Society of North America:

How can we maximize our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) to respond to mental health-related issues?

It is a voluntary and confidential service to help employees at all levels and, in most cases, their family members (dependents) who have personal concerns that affect their personal well-being and/or work performance. It can include telephonic, face-to-face and electronic counselling to help resolve problems and address concerns. The service is usually free of charge to you and your staff, and, in some cases, your family members. These programs are also referred to as Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAPs).

The cost to the employer may vary, but usually ranges between $2 and $4 per employee per month. The more employees are covered, the less are the costs per employee. Smaller employers can sometimes join a local consortium of small to medium-size employers for greater cost reduction.

Who offers this service?

In most cases, the counselling services are provided by professional counsellors through a contractual agreement with an outside provider. Some larger organizations may have this service in-house (counsellors are employees of the organization, and colleagues). Special measures are, in these cases, put in place to assure confidentiality.

Quality Assurance

There is a recognized accreditation program for EFAPs in North America through the Council on Accreditation (COA). The organization may have someone who oversees the provision of the EFAP and can perform quality audits. In addition, EFAP counsellors are usually mental health professionals, members in good standing with a professional college or association in their province or territory, and are required to abide to a professional code of ethics. It is important for employers to ask about the quality assurance process of any potential EFAP provider.

Can an EFAP help my team work better/adjust to changing times?

In addition to helping employees through individual assistance, most EFAPs also provide on-site workplace interventions to address workplace stressors, including violent or aggressive behaviours, unresolved conflict, poor team performance due to psycho social stressors, the death of a colleague, or injury at work. Some can perform workplace assessments that can help identify behaviours and practices that are contributing to the workplace health problems, including absenteeism, presenteeism and poor team performance. They can assist through restructuring, workforce adjustments, and other transitions that create stress on your employees. Coaching managers in how to assist employees who experience mental health problems can be available as well. There may be some cost for these services.

Some types of workplace interventions that may be offered by an EFAP:

  • Stress Management
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Management Coaching
  • Grief and Loss
  • Trauma and Critical Stress Management
  • Career Counselling
  • Health Promotion (Nutritional, Smoke Cessation, etc.)
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Return-To-Work Facilitation

For more information on EAPs or EFAPs and related services, go to Employee Assistance Society of North America.