Help business owners focus on employee wellness

By Sarah Brown | November 6, 2015 | Last updated on November 6, 2015
3 min read

Many organizations recognize the importance of employee benefits and pension programs. And this is especially important today, when executives are managing multigenerational workforces.

Whether it’s a father who needs to cover healthcare costs for his wife and four children, or a 22-year-old new employee who can’t afford to go to the dentist, coverage can help.

But pensions and physical healthcare aren’t the only types of aid that employees need. Tell your business-owner clients that it’s also important to offer programs that benefit mental health and wellness. One such program is the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

An EAP is intended to help employees and their dependents deal with personal problems that may hinder job performance. The program provides counseling sessions by phone or face-to-face, and representatives can provide referrals for personal needs, online resources and education.

Let’s say a manager finds out an employee has to move her elderly mother into a supportive care home. The employee is stressed out by the process, and takes several sick days. If an EAP is in place, the manager could share the details of the program, and the employee can then contact the EAP and outline her circumstances. The EAP representative would search to find an available care home that meets the needs of the mother. The goal is to reduce the employee’s stress levels so she can increase her productivity.

3 reasons to consider EAPs

  • EAP programs can help lessen the usage of an employee’s health plan. Employees may decide to use the EAP plan for counseling, rather than going to a psychiatrist. The cost of the EAP isn’t affected by how much it is used (unlike typical health plans).
  • It can reduce employee absenteeism because workers have an outlet to discuss stress.
  • When an employer demonstrates that it cares for an employee’s well-being, that employee will likely feel motivated to work harder.

Another example: an employee’s youngest child has moved from Ontario to B.C. to attend university. The employee finds the transition difficult, and can then call the EAP for support and counselling. The focus on mental health and wellness in the media has caused prices for EAPs to decrease. Today’s rates are almost half of what they were 10 years ago, and depend on an assumed utilization of the plan.

There are options when it comes to pricing. For instance, a business owner can add the plan through her employee benefits vendor, or she can use a third party. If an employer adds the EAP through a third party, it could cost $3.50 to $5 per employee per month. Companies that want to reduce costs can look at a three-session capped model, which means an employee can have a maximum of three counseling sessions. This reduces the price by 15% to 20%.

What are the benefits for employers? The EAP can help keep employees happier and healthier at work. It may help reduce absenteeism and increase employees’ productivity. Since it’s an added benefit, the EAP can also help employers recruit and keep good employees.

Sarah Brown is a licenced marketing assistant at Al G. Brown & Associates.

Sarah Brown