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What Is an Employee Assistance Program?Top of page

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a service designed to assist employees who are experiencing personal and job-related problems that affect work performance, general health and well-being. An EAP should provide problem identification and assessment, consultative advice and referral to appropriate agencies, and the promotion of wellness through various programs and activities. Employee participation must be voluntary, and access to the program must be universal. Programs need to be open-ended and comprehensive and should emphasize individual welfare.

Why Have an EAP?Top of page

Each of us faces a variety of challenges and problems in our daily lives. While most difficulties can be resolved personally, some problems persist over a period of time, either constantly or intermittently. When these problems become too much to handle, they can affect personal happiness, family relations, performance at work and general health. Help in dealing with these problems can result in higher job satisfaction and performance, increased self-esteem, improved personal and interpersonal relationships, better coping skills and reduced sick leave.

What kinds of Problems Will an EAP Deal With?Top of page

Problems for which an employee assistance program can be effective include

  • physical and emotional illness,
  • marital and family difficulties,
  • drug and alcohol abuse,
  • financial problems,
  • grief and bereavement,
  • career concerns and job dissatisfaction,
  • distress and
  • harassment.

Early identification is the key for an effective EAP. Serious problems do not go away by themselves. Without help, problems usually get worse.

What about Family Members?Top of page

Since an employee’s personal well-being and job performance can be affected by problems of a spouse or a dependent, this program is available to all members of the immediate family. Family problems can usually be corrected before they affect the employee’s personal health or job performance.

What about Confidentiality?Top of page

Without assurances of confidentiality from all participating groups, an EAP would be ineffectual. The most effective EAPs are those that provide counsellors from outside consulting agencies. The identity of an employee, referrals and records all require the strictest confidence. No information or file items can be released without an employee’s written consent. Employees participate in the program without fear of disciplinary action. It is inappropriate for counselling personnel to play any part in arranging employee resignations or to be instrumental in any punitive measures against an employee involved in the program.

How Is an EAP Monitored?Top of page

Once a program is endorsed by the participating groups, a joint advisory committee oversees its organization, implementation and monitoring. Appropriate awareness and public-relations programs related to the EAP should be ongoing.

Who Pays for EAP Services?Top of page

Programs should be financed by the employer. The local association and school board should be jointly involved in their development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In practice, some programs are jointly funded. In jurisdictions where a program is desired but finances are limited, insurance benefit packages will cover some of the costs for employees requiring the service.

Who Can Be Contacted for Further Information?Top of page

An ATA executive staff officer is available on request to provide advice and assistance concerning employee assistance programs (see reverse for contact information).