Insight /

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook

Achieving a perfect work-life equilibrium when the two are entirely separate areas of our lives and not inadvertently affecting one another is practically impossible.

We carry our work problems and frustrations home, and vice versa.

Personal issues can spill over and deteriorate job performance, decrease work quality, and cause absenteeism, and loss of productivity. One troubled employee can affect the whole team’s performance or create a toxic environment for other employees. 

This year the topic of mental health has been more critical than ever, as people with mental illnesses face additional challenges dealing with COVID-19. The impact of COVID-19 on the economy has caused instability in many areas and left employers looking for ways to keep employees engaged, supported, and productive.

While there has been a significant rise in demand for counseling, a service that many employees overlook and do not know they have access to is Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). 

What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Program is a voluntary, work-based program designed to help employees receive short-term counseling and manage personal issues affecting their work and productivity. 

EAPs are entirely confidential and protected by confidentiality laws, and information is only shared with the employer if the employee provides written consent. An employee cannot have promotions, career status, or job security jeopardized by participating in an EAP.  

These benefits and services are offered at no direct cost to employees of all levels in the company. EAP services are available to the employee and for each employee’s dependents, spouse, children, non-marital partner living in the same household, and extended family.  

There are two types of referrals to the EAP, a self-referral and a supervisor referral. 

It is important to note that a supervisory referral can be informal, formal, or mandatory. In most cases, formal and mandatory referrals are linked to dissatisfactory performance, such as sporadic attendance, behavioral issues, lower quality of work. 

EPAs are not a punishment but a resource to help employees succeed.  

Services are convenient and can be offered via phone, email, online chatting, face-to-face, or video-based counseling. Most EAPs have a 24-hour service, all year round, and offer emergency consultation by phone in most cases. EAPs provide access to a licensed professional that can help identify problems that need to be addressed early on. 

Which Type of Concerns are Covered?

  • Marital and family problems. 
  • Stress and burnout. 
  • Grief counseling. 
  • Personal and emotional issues. 
  • Psychological disorders. 
  • Workplace violence, trauma. 
  • Depression. 
  • Anxiety.

EAPs are not limited to the concerns mentioned above. These programs support a broad range of issues, including legal, financial, physical, and mental health and emotional well-being issues.

Although EAPs are most often used for mental health counseling, they can aid employees with childcare, adoption assistance, elderly care, pet sitting, or buying a home for the first time. 

Since this is a short-term service, the number of sessions varies between providers, but it is usually no less than three sessions of one hour each. 

Many programs extend the sessions up to 5-8 per person per year. If longer-term help is needed, the EAP counselor can give an assessment and a referral for further counseling and treatment.

They can help identify the treatment required and provide guidance on how to gain access to community resources. 

EAP Providers

Browse and compare 1000’s of vetted vendors. 


Besides the benefits for the employee and the direct help from free counseling, there are numerous benefits for everyone. 

  • Increased productivity 

EAPs lower absenteeism rates and higher productivity rates. It also improves employee retention, thereby reducing employee turnover and the cost of training new hires, and related replacement costs. 

  • Supports the employer 

EAP counselors will give managers guidance on navigating and managing complex employee situations and organizational challenges. EAP counselors will not interfere with managerial decisions but provide coaching on how to manage a troubled employee.

By providing access to EAPs, employers will not have to navigate through difficult situations for which they are not qualified or trained. 

  • Preventive care 

Managers should raise awareness and promote the use of EAPs, by addressing and detecting any concerns early. Moreover, it may help prevent any performance issues later on. 

  • Lower Costs 

Reducing costs of medical plans, sick leave, and unplanned absences.  

  • Reduced lawsuits against the employer 

Many lower-performance job termination cases can be legally risky. EAPs help improve the performance of employees, therefore making it less likely that those employees will be terminated; 

  • Creates a healthy work culture in the workplace 

EAPs are signs that employers care about mental health and create a healthy work-life balance. Happy and healthy employees also develop stronger relationships with coworkers and have better teamwork. 

  • Emergency consultation 

EAPs provide crisis counseling 24/7 in case of emergencies. 

Companies have started to include EAPs in their productivity management strategy to help create an environment of cooperation and outstanding performance where both the employees and the organization can thrive.

By investing in their employees, the organization will have a great return and create a better, healthier, and more productive workforce. These programs are pro-employee and pro-employer, which benefits everyone in the organization with long-lasting effects. 


Written by Shortlister Editorial Team
Written by Shortlister Editorial Team