Maintaining ethics in EAP | EAPA-SA

The Employee Assistance industry plays a pivotal role in assisting employees within organisations in the private and public sector in South Africa. In this light, the EAPASA compiled a Code of Ethics designed to provide a set of high standards for EAP practitioners and encourage conduct that will enhance the EAP industry’s mission in South Africa, reinforcing its values, and promoting quality EA services. 


EAPASA Code of Ethics

For the sake of the professional reputation and furtherance of the South African EAP industry, it is essential for EAP practitioners and service providers to maintain impeccable standards. This is why the EAPASA Board developed, and updated in 2010, a formal Code of Ethical Behaviour, based on the key activities, standards, goals and the values of EAP practice. By accepting their annual EAPASA membership, members automatically agree to abide by the EAPASA Code of Ethics and the EAPASA Board and its membership hold each other, as well as each individual member responsible for conducting their professional and personal activities within the spirit of this Code of Ethics. The Code, therefore, serves as a set of rules and standards by which Employee Assistance Professionals/Practitioners in South Africa are mandated to conduct their professional behaviour.

Ethics within the EAP industry can be said to have a focus in three areas: 

  • Professional capacity: Professional responsibility; Professional competency and Professional development 
  • Organisational capacity: Record-keeping; Client protection; Staffing; Business practice
  • Professional relationships: Neutrality; Confidentiality; Timely intervention; Zero conflict of interest

Click here to access EAPASA’s Code of Ethics. 

“…protecting the confidentiality of the individual client versus the risk of losing the business…”

Possible dilemmas for ethical EAP practice

EAPs’ primary ethical dilemma can centre on identifying whose needs take primacy. For example, the EAP counsellor may have to grapple with conflicting goals, while ensuring safety and therapeutic value for the individual client even if it comes at an additional cost to the EAP service provider or the organisation. Some of the salient concerns relate to: 

  • protecting the confidentiality of the individual client versus the risk of losing the business;
  • compromised quality versus larger profit margins for the EAP service provider; 
  • confidentiality of the employee (client) versus risks and safety of the organisation (client);
  • quality of the EAP service versus securing new business contracts for the EAP provider.

Ethical framework for the use of technology in EAPs

Particularly since the advent of COVID-19, it has been essential that EAP service providers ensure that all employees are trained in using modern digital technology so they can effectively provide assessment, counselling and referral services. A competent employee assistance professional working online should adhere to at least these minimum standards and practices in order to be considered to be working in an ethical manner. At the same time, this is in keeping with South Africa’s POPI Act. 

  • EAP service providers should have a sufficient understanding of technology:  EAP service providers who deliver employee assistance services via technology should have a grounding in technology basics. They should possess a basic understanding of technology as it relates to delivery of services. 
  • Encryption: EAP service providers should understand how to access encrypted services to store records and deliver communication. Record storage can be hosted on a secure server with a third-party, stored on the EAP service providers’ hard drive utilising encrypted folders or stored on an external drive that is safely backed up.
  • Backup Systems: Records and data that are stored on the EAP service providers’ hard drive should be backed up either to an external drive or remotely via the Internet.

“A competent employee assistance professional working online should adhere to at least these minimum standards and practices in order to be considered to be working in an ethical manner. “

  • Password Protection: EAP service providers should ensure confidentiality of client communication and other materials by password protecting their computer, drives and stored files or communication websites.
  • Firewalls: EAP service providers should utilise firewall protection at multiple levels: at desktop/laptop operating system level, local area network level and additionally utilise firewall resources provided by their Internet service provider.
  • Virus Protection: EAP service providers should assure that their work computers are protected from viruses that can be received from or transmitted to others.
  • Hardware: EAP service providers should understand the basic running platform of the work computer and know whether or not a client’s hardware/platform is compatible with any communication programmes the practitioner uses.
  • Software: EAP service providers should know how to download and operate software and assist employees and their families with the same when necessary to the delivery of services.
  • Third-party services: EAP service providers should utilise third-party technology service providers (e.g. for backup, storage, virus protection and communication) that offer an address and phone number so that contact is possible via means other than email.
  • EAP service providers should provide the means to communicate via technology: EAPs should provide the technological equipment expertise, and support, as well as sufficient back- up systems and plans to reasonably ensure communication continuity.
  • EA Companies and Programmes provide or ensure training, knowledge and supervision.
    Training, knowledge and supervision regarding EA services and technology is paramount to delivering a standard of service that is considered “best practice” within a global context. Those EAP service providers who will be working online need to have proficiency and competency through specialized training for this type of work. Supervision is mandated for all EAP service providers because of the specialized effort required for the provision of EA distance services.
  • EA service providers provide needed technological support. EAP service providers should provide the structure and technology for communication, supervision etc. to their staff members and affiliate providers.
  • Encrypted Transmission of EAP sessions: EAP service providers should offer secure and encrypted means of communication with clients along with encryption and security policies either embedded within the organisation’s site or utilising links to 3rd party platforms.


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