Helping Employees During Their Darkest Hours

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The tragic tornadoes that struck Oklahoma earlier this week remind us all again how important Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are for the workplace. Yet, according to the preliminary UBA Ancillary Benefits Survey, of the 8,557 employers answering questions about employee assistance programs (EAPs), only 21.8 percent of employers offer EAPs. That percentage drops to 9.4 among small (fewer than 50 employees) and to 19.2 percent among midsize companies (fewer than 500 employees). Employers shouldn’t forget to incorporate these programs into their benefits plans.

Though sometimes stigmatized, these programs are so important, not only to help employees with personal crises such as divorce, substance abuse and financial/legal matters, but also when an organization is reeling from an employee death, tornado or hurricane recovery or even tragedies like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Recently, two of our Partner Firms were sharing best practices and trends related to EAPs. Erika Shea from Group Insurance Associates, a UBA Partner Firm from Connecticut, says an EAP needn’t be expensive to be effective. And Aida Visakay, CEO from AxisPointe Benefit Advisors, a UBA Partner firm in New Jersey, says good telephonic services with the ability to have on-site visits in an emergency may be highly effective for most employers and can cost less than $12 per employee per year.

Aidia and Erika also shared some trends that make EAP an even more critical component of an effective benefits mix, namely that these programs can be leveraged to:

  • Combat rising health care costs stemming from the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • Manage the rising costs of psychotropic medications
  • Help reduce increases on medical and prescription renewals
  • Help employees with ever-increasing family caregiving issues that impact work productivity, including caring for aging parents and children coping with tragedy and loss.

As such, employers should consider integrating EAP with their pharmacy benefit and the disability claim process so there is more connectivity with employees during times of need. When positioned well, the EAP can become an important part of a company’s overall health management strategy.