What's an EAP: Choosing an EAP
Choosing an EAP: 'You get what you pay for' is true when selecting an EAP.
Choosing an EAP that best fits your organization is an important decision. Effective EAPs work closely with your human resource systems and personnel. How well an EAP responds and adapts to your organization's unique needs is critical.
These questions may help you find an EAP who provides services that you and your employees' value.
How do you protect employee confidentiality?
If employees trust their names won't be revealed to their employer or coworkers, they are more likely to utilize the EAP; the more employees who use the EAP the more benefits for the organization. Request a copy of the EAP's privacy practices notice and a sample of their utilization report.
Who are the counselors and what are their qualifications?
EAP's with both male and female counselors who have expertise in a variety of areas offer employees greater choice and can better meet their needs. Ask for a list of counselors, their qualifications, and what the minimum credentials required for all counselors are.
What different services does the EAP offer?
All EAPs provide mental health counseling. Ask what other services are offered – work/life, wellness, financial, legal, elder care, training programs, crisis response, and on-site conflict resolution. Some employees are unlikely to ever visit a counselor, but they would be interested in seeing a financial advisor or attorney. More services will appeal to a broader number of employees.
Does your EAP and its counselor(s) have liability insurance?
We live in a highly litigious society. The EAP should have adequate liability insurance, and so should the subcontractor counselors they work with. The employer is better protected by working with providers who protect themselves.
Are counselors located near where employees work and live? How do employees schedule appointments? Do you offer emergency call coverage?
Counselors should have offices within easy drive time and offer counseling at hours convenient to employees. Calls for appointments should be easy to make and messages should be returned promptly. Call the EAP's main number to see what your employees will experience when they call. The EAP should offer access to a counselor 24 hours a day and seven days a week in case of emergencies.
How do you remind employees about the EAP? What materials are included for free?
Employees may forget about their EAP benefit when they most need it unless they are provided with regular reminders. The EAP should offer regular promotional and educational materials such as payroll stuffers, newsletters, flyers, posters, brownbag training programs, participation at benefit's fairs, and supervisory orientations. Be sure they spell out what is included and what's available for an additional charge.
How will you help us refer troubled employees to the EAP?
Employers who get the most out of their EAP understand that it is both a benefit for employees to use at their option, and a strategic tool to help supervisors and managers better manage employees. Employees coping with personal problems can experience performance problems and disrupt other employees. Ask whether the EAP trains supervisors and managers to recognize and assist troubled employees.
Is personal financial consultation included? How can I be sure the financial advice is unbiased and accurate?
Some EAPs offer credit counseling, budgeting, debt management and bankruptcy counseling with financial experts. Often, emotional issues can accompany debt, such as depression, relationship strife, stress, anxiety and substance abuse. If financial counseling is offered, ask whether the EAP pays the financial counselor for EAP counseling sessions and requires that he or she doesn't give "buy this, sell that" financial advice. They are more likely to provide impartial advice.
Are dependents covered and how long is an employee covered after they've left the organization?
Make sure the benefit covers the employee and their dependent family members. Also, a traumatic time for the employer and employee is when the employee leaves the organization - whether at the request of the employer or not. Find out if the EAP benefit extends for a period of time after they've left the employer so they can receive counseling during this stressful transition time.
How will we know if the EAP is being used and provides valued services for our employees?
Confidentiality requirements make it difficult for an employer to know if the EAP is being used and how valuable the services are. Ask if the EAP provides utilization reports that don't give names, but frequency of use, and if they share results from client satisfaction surveys.
Are there any hidden or add-on costs?
EAP's should not only disclose what is covered for the contracted fee, but also any add-on charges for administration, reports, promotional materials, and counseling charges.
What happens when an employee's allotment of EAP sessions are used?
EAPs provide brief counseling and referral. Often employees want to continue seeing the same counselor they've come to know and trust. Ask if the employee can continue to see the same counselor at the end of the EAP sessions and whether the EAP's counselors are also members of any health insurance plans that the employer provides.