Back to Basics: The Fundamentals of EAP | EAPA-SA

What is the purpose of an Employee Assistance Programme?

The overall purpose of an Employee Assistance Programme is to ensure that employees are able to remain productive in the workplace and manage their personal lives, even when faced with difficult life experiences.

What are Employee Assistance Programmes?

An employee assistance programme (EAP) is essentially a work-based intervention programme designed to identify and assist employees in resolving work or personal problems.  These include substance or alcohol abuse, mental health problems, financial problems or family issues that may have a negative effect on the employee’s work performance and productivity.  Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are provided as a free employee benefit by businesses and organisations, and are accessed by employees on a voluntary basis.  Support is offered to employees through free and confidential assessments, short-term counselling (or referrals to specialist support if necessary) along with follow-up services. 1

What Employee Assistance Programmes are not!

It’s important to note that Employee Assistance Programs are not medical service providers in that EAPs are not qualified to diagnose a health issue or replace specialist medical or psychological treatment. However, many EAPs do offer access to advice at a ‘nurse level’ for making important health decisions, or for getting information about mental health counselling. 2

What are the primary benefits of an Employee Assistance Programme?

  • EAPs lead to increased productivity which affects an organisation’s bottom line

When employees are distracted by personal problems or problems in the workplace, they become less motivated and engaged at work. Through access to resources that can help address these potentially debilitating problems, absenteeism and employee turnover are reduced, resulting in a more stable and productive workforce.  Through employee-access to EAPs, the work environment is enabled to become a healthier and happier place overall. This leads to bigger profit margins and happier customers.

“South African businesses are losing up to R89 billion a year due to distracted employees, who despite being present in the workplace, are unproductive, says new research by Momentum Corporate. The Momentum Effective Employee Index reveals that “presenteeism” is costing some businesses 5% of gross operating profits (GOP). Presenteeism is defined as the phenomenon when employees are at work but not productive due to distractions.”

  • EAPs lead to increased employee retention

A positive work environment is a key factor in retaining talented employees. In this regard, an Employee Assistance Programme is a very cost effective way to help employers not only to retain, but also to attract talent – particularly among millennial employees who see EAPs as a valuable employee benefit, being much less hesitant to reach out for help regarding mental health issues.

  • EAPs are a source of cost-effective training and development

Many EAP’s will provide training on a variety of topics which include the development of soft skills in employees, such as:  managing employees from different generations, managing job stress, communication skills and getting along with colleagues. To attract and retain top talent it is essential for an organisation to provide development opportunities such as these. Developing managers to improve their management skills and training employees to better handle complex situations at work also leads to higher engagement and retention.3

Future innovation in EAP in South Africa

Within the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution it is essential that Employee Assistance Programmes employ ideal technology-enabled EAP solutions to meet client needs.  In the closing remarks of his presentation at the EAPA-SA and Pan African Eduweek, Dr Fundile Nyati, Chief Executive Officer at Proactive Health Solutions said, “The current EAP service delivery providers and stakeholders within Africa (including consumers of services) must ask themselves how can they leapfrog the continent towards the “Anywhere, Anytime, Any device and Any browser” model of EAP service delivery.