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Many employers recognize there's more to employee's lives than work. Stress, anxiety, grief, and trauma affect all aspects of life, including job satisfaction and performance.
So, many companies use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to support employees with life difficulties. An EAPs goal is to catch problems before they escalate and become overwhelming.
But, many employees don't know about the benefits their company's program offers. This article will answer the question, what is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? We'll also cover how and when to use an EAP—and how they can help your financial health.
What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
An Employee Assistance Program is a confidential employer-based service to help workers cope with work/life issues. The programs provide services and support to improve employees' mental, physical, and financial health. Because when employees are healthy and happy, they have better work satisfaction and performance.
Thus, EAPs benefit employees, and employers see improvements in employee productivity, absenteeism, and turnover.
Most programs provide confidential counseling services, resources, and referrals on a range of personal and professional issues.
For example, they might help with substance abuse, relationship issues, financial and legal problems, workplace struggles, and more. And when there’s widespread workplace turmoil or trauma, EAPs step in to provide support.
- Are voluntary
- Are free for employees and their eligible family members
- Partner with other agencies to offer a wide range of services
- Have lists of healthcare providers, professional counselors, nutritionists, daycare services, community resources, and more
- Are administered by third-party providers
What an EAP is not.
An EAP is not insurance. Companies provide free programs and referral services, but they don’t give out financial help or pay your bills.
EAP service providers don’t make diagnoses or treat health problems. Instead, they provide immediate, direct support. And then connect employees with providers, like doctors, mental health professionals, licensed counselors, and financial planners.
Most programs don't continue after employment ends. They aren't subject to COBRA and ACA rules like health insurance plans if they aren't providing direct medical services.
How (and when) to use an Employee Assistance Program
EAPs are helpful if you’re dealing with specific issues or challenges at work or home.
Suppose you care for an elderly parent, need financial advice, want help with an addiction, or escaping an abusive relationship. In those cases, an EAP is an excellent place to start.
Anytime life or work becomes stressful, an EAP can help. And many programs offer financial resources and preventative wellness outside of employer health plans too.
Counselors are usually on-call to assist you when you need it. You can generally access them by phone, video, chat, or in-person. They take the time to evaluate your needs and provide immediate support. And most of the time, they make referrals and provide the resources you need.
What types of benefits do they offer?
Since EAPs are employer-based benefits, they differ from employer to employer. But, below are some common benefits most programs provide. Check with your human resources department to learn about their specific EAP program and their confidential services to employees.
They'll be able to direct you to a list of your EAP providers and additional resources without you needing to reveal any personal issues you're facing.
Mental Health. Most offer short-term counseling sessions and referrals for mental health issues. Employees use these services to help with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, or addiction.
Health and Wellness. Some programs provide nutrition and fitness services. And many have support and resources for coping with acute and chronic medical issues, drug abuse, and stress management.
Caregiving. Many offer support and resources for those in caregiving roles. They can provide counseling, referrals, and resources for finding outside help, such as child care or eldercare.
Family Services. Programs offer services like family counseling, family planning, mediation, or other family issues.
Financial Services. Many provide resources or assistance with budgeting, debt consolidation, insurance decisions, and more, while others may include a counseling session with a professional advisor.
Workplace Issues. EAPs offer support for work-related stress and development. For example, things like professional growth, workplace burnout, sexual harassment, job performance issues, or co-worker disagreements.
Legal Issues. Many programs provide consultation services or help with legal concerns such as divorce, wills, power of attorney, or lawsuits.
How an EAP can help your financial health
EAPs may offer a financial consultation, resources, and referrals to help you reach your financial goals. And other services might save you money too.
Sometimes using an EAP as the first line of defense on a work/life problem keeps it from escalating. And this can save time and money later.
Several ways EAPs can help your financial health include:
- Budgeting help
- Financial resources and tools
- Finding a financial planner
- Debt management
- Credit counseling
- Buying/Financing a home
- Buying a car
- Tax referrals/consultations
- Making financial decisions
- Dealing with financial stress
Each program is different, but most EAPs have some services for dealing with financial concerns or planning. They provide resources and consultations for money management, loan consolidation, debt repayment, retirement planning, and other related financial issues.
So if you want to get a handle on your debt or plan for retirement, check out your EAP providers to see what resources and professional services they offer.
Employee assistance programs are an underutilized benefit offered by many companies. But they can be an excellent way for workers to get help and access to resources on a wide variety of issues.
We all have struggles, and sometimes all we need is a place to call for help. Even just one contact with an EAP counselor can get us on the right path.
Still, you don't have to be struggling with a traumatic or stressful life event to benefit from this valuable resource.
You can use financial services or other life services/resources to stay in front of any issues too. So, if you have access to an EAP, it’s free and worth checking out!