Are there likely to be any legal or tax-related repercussions if using one?
You are unlikely to face any legal implications by using an EAP system, but you should note that simply introducing a system for staff to use will not absolve you from your other workplace wellbeing commitments. To contextualise, if you introduce an EAP to allow employees to receive help and support related to workplace stress, this does not mean that you shouldn’t make other reasonable efforts in order to reduce levels of stress as much as possible.
Similarly, it is unlikely you will face any tax implications by using an EAP. This kind of system can be regarded as a business expense, rather than a benefit in kind, as long as long it satisfies HM Revenue and Customs definition of ‘welfare counselling.’ You should also ensure that the EAP services are not used by any family members or friends of your employees, unless they are directly involved in a situation for which your employee is already receiving appropriate help, support or guidance.
Why would employing the use of a programme be beneficial to my business?
Employing the use of an EAP system is a smart business move, as there are multiple ways that such a system could add huge value to your company. It has been established that EAPs have a strong role to play in supporting workplace mental health, enabling employees to access free and confidential advice and information, and providing crucial guidance on issues that have the potential to affect individual performance and attendance at work.
A Personnel Today survey of HR professionals found that 66 percent stated they felt their system completely or partially justified its initial or ongoing cost. The vast majority (89%), also reported that they experienced no problems with the scheme.
The same study asked HR managers about the top issues that employees presented with when they accessed their EAP system. Workplace stress, at 70 percent, was cited as the most common. Other frequently quoted issues included; depression (57%), family problems (56%), problems with line managers (20%), workplace restructure concerns (15%), and bullying (6%).
Are they classed as a workplace benefit to employees?
Classing an EAP as a workplace benefit depends entirely on what kind of system you decide is the best fit for your workplace. For a basic telephone or internet based system, that is entirely unrelated to any other health or wellbeing system that you may have, you would not need to classify this as a workplace benefit.
However, if your EAP system is linked to other health-related products, such as a cash plan, private medical insurance, critical illness cover, or income protection, then you may have grounds to elevate its usage to that of a benefit.
Can they provide line manager support?
EAP’s can also provide support to line managers, producing anonymous management information to help supervisors, managers and business owners to identify and deal with any negative workplace issues. Some have even developed specialist support and guidance function that can only be unlocked by managers and business owners, including help and support for trauma, tribunal and mediation situations and services.
In a larger organisation, an EAP system could also provide a huge amount of compelling employee data surrounding usage. As long as all employee contact is kept completely confidential, and the figures that are used are purely statistical, they can provide a clear picture as to the current mental health and wellbeing profile of your workforce.
This in turn can allow for a targeted programme, aimed at potential problem areas such as work-related stress, bullying, harassment or low morale, to be effectively implemented to try and improve the situation. The data could also be used to help to influence a wider resulting health and wellbeing programme.
How do I decide which provider is right for my business?
This depends entirely on what you feel that your desired system should be able to do for your workforce. For example, would you want to integrate face-to-face counselling options, as well as online and telephone support? Would you like employees to be able to access support in some form 24 hours a day? What are the key personal and work-related issues that you feel you could benefit from help and support with? Deciding whether your system should have a specific counselling, or wider employee wellbeing slant, should help to streamline your assessment of potential system providers.
Establishing your requirements, and gaining a rough idea as to what your ideal system should look like, will provide you with a great start when you begin to look at different software providers and systems.