AN EXCERPT FROM THE ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE
An organisation’s biggest investment is its people. Most organisational leaders know instinctively that a happy, healthy workforce is a productive workforce, but many still view Employee Assistance / Wellness programmes (EAP) as an ‘optional extra’ or “compliance” issue rather than an integral organizational health, safety and behaviour risk management partner.
In addition to the important role that people play, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are designed to enable management to build the productivity capacity of each individual in the organisation. Distorted relationships in the workplace, whether they be supervisory relationships, relationships with peers or subordinates, are recognised indicators of an underlying problem amongst employees in the workplace. Troubled employees – wrongly managed – very often land up facing disciplinary actions and/or grievance procedures because they are experiencing personal problems.1
SCOPE OF WORK
Fundamentally, Employee Assistance is the application in the workplace of knowledge about organizational and behavioural health to enable an optimal level of both personal and workplace functioning . That means the Employee Assistance profession is a unique integration of organisation development, behavioural and physical health, human resources, and business management.3
An Employee Assistance Programme is “the work organisation’s resource utilising specific core technologies or functions to enhance employee and workplace effectiveness through prevention, identification, and resolution of personal and productivity issues.” These problems may include health problems, marital and relationship issues, family, financial, substance abuse and work related problems. . The specific core activities of EAPs both preventive and mitigating include organizational consultation services; case management, training and development; marketing, stakeholder management and monitoring and evaluation.
EAPA-SA has developed national standards which provide a comprehensive blueprint for EAP practice in South Africa.
THE EAP PROCESS
Standard Employee Assistance Programmes include counselling initiatives that address issues like occupational stress, financial, family as well as substance abuse challenges. These constitute programmes that numerous employees have been hesitant to access in the past for fear of appearing incompetent or even losing their jobs.
Workplace counselling is an employee support intervention that provides an independent, specialist resource for people working across all sectors and in all working environments. Giving all employees access to a free, confidential, workplace counselling service is viewed as part of an employer’s duty of care. Workplace counsellors have a specialist viewpoint and skill-set. They are mindful of the context in which the employees work and have an essential understanding of the environment to which the employees will be returning.
Contemporary South African EAPs are more holistic covering multiple dimensions of human functioning. Case Management may include occupational health / injury on duty consultations; occupational safety; fitness and healthy lifestyle programmes, spiritual care in addition to psychosocial services. For these types of initiatives, an EAP Manager may use the services of a third-party professional to provide input such as personal training, gym facilities or nutritional counselling.
Requirements to become an EAP Practitioner vary according to the nature of the organisation and responsibilities. EAPA-SA presently confers 2 SAQA registered professional designations for members viz: EA Professional and EA Practitioners. Employee Assistance Professionals have qualifications at NQF level 9 in Behavioral; Health and/or Business Sciences such as Social Work or Psychology with relevant work experience and may be expected to deliver therapeutic services to their clients. EA Practitioners also enter the profession with backgrounds in Human Resources, Nursing and Organizational Development to coordinate EAPs, manage service provider contracts and deliver non-clinical services.
Several colleges and universities offer formal training programs but because the Employee Assistance profession draws on the knowledge and skills of a variety of disciplines, most professional development happens through continuing education.3 A “cross pollination” of knowledge and skills from the different disciplines becomes necessary for EAP competence.
A career in EAP typically calls for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Behavioural, Health and Business Sciences and 2-5 years of experience. Previous work experience in related areas such as Human Resources, Exercise Science, Medicine, Psychology, Social Science or Nutrition may be helpful as an entry point. Workplace experience is an essential element in equipping a person with the necessary skills to become an EAP Practitioner.
Representative job description
Principal accountability and key performance areas may include:
- Organizational profiling and program design
- Develop a management system for the program including strategy, policies, procedures and functional structures
- Implementation of direct clinical and non-clinical services
- Training for all stakeholders in the organization
- Program communication and promotion
- Information and record management
- Monitoring and Evaluation of impact and return on investment
- Organizational consultation and stakeholder management
Various tertiary institutions in South Africa offer courses in EAP, for example:
- University of Pretoria, offers a Masters Programme specializing in EAP as well as short courses through Enterprises University of Pretoria in Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Durban and Cape Town.4
- Wits University, through Wits Plus, offers a certificate course entitled, “Implementing Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) in the Workplace” This course aims to provide the participants with the relevant knowledge, skills and attitude to implement Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) within private companies, government departments and service provider organisations or to become Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) practitioners.5
- University of South Africa (UNISA), Short Course in Employee Wellness (71579). Open distance learning combined with a reader, tutorial letters, learning experiences in the form of self-assessment activities and assessment (formative and summative) activities, a non-compulsory two and a half day workshop will be held in Pretoria each semester.6
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Contributor: Thiloshni Govender
EAPA-SA Board Member: President Elect
Vice President of the EAPA-SA, Thiloshni has been actively involved in the field of Employee Assistance since 1996. She was a founding member of the EAPA Ikhala Chapter in East London and the chapter has received two awards for EAPA-SA Branch of the year. She was awarded the EAPA-SA Certificate of Merit in 2006 for her contribution to the EAP field.
She has served EAPA-SA in the portfolios of Research, Conference and Finance before being elected in 2013 as President Elect. Thiloshni has also been actively involved in the revision of EAPA-SA Standards adopted in 2010.
Thiloshni qualified as a Social Worker from the University of Durban-Westville in 1991 and completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work: EAP at University of Pretoria in 2009. In April 2008, she was appointed as Director: Employee Wellness for the Department of Health where she is presently responsible for Employee Assistance, Occupational Health and Safety, HIV and TB Workplace Programmes, Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases as well as employee Sport and Recreation.