In Part One of our two-part article series on how to shop for a credible EAP programme, we first looked at the benefits of being an EAPA-SA member and at how the Association accredits its members upon application – which is helpful in demonstrating why it is a good idea for EAP consumers to choose an EAPA-SA member as their EAP service provider. Then, we turned our attention to the EAP consumer to find out from two discerning EAP users what some of their main criteria are when selecting a professionally equipped and competent EAP service provider.
In Part Two we will delve deeper into what EAP consumers should look out for when structuring and implementing the EAP service provider selection process. Selecting a credible EAP service provider can be said to boil down to two important factors beyond their size and capacity to meet their client’s requirements. These are:
- a demonstrable record of positive workplace outcomes that provide an indication that their EAP services will lead to a positive return on investment, and
- that the organisation clearly maintains an exemplary level of operational standards while, in conjunction, adhering to the industry’s Code of Ethics. The Code is based in South African law and has been benchmarked by EAPA-SA.
Demonstrable return on investment
A measurable return on investment (ROI) is seen to be of great importance in the EAP industry and EAP service providers are under increasing pressure to ensure that their programmes have sound evaluation components that are able to measure their impact, translating into positive workplace returns such as an improvement in absenteeism or an increase in productivity.
It is essential that EAP consumers understand the methods and processes of evaluation employed by their EAP service provider up front, and to know what performance targets were set at the time that the service was commissioned.
Standards of practice
In addition to being able to match a consumer’s criteria (as listed in Part One of this article) when it comes to capacity, reach and availability it is imperative that EAP service providers meet certain professional standards, or an agreed level of best professional practice, in order to be classified as a bona fide EAP service provider. These include:
1. Programme design
Programme design should be based on organisational profiling and a thorough assessment of organisational and employee needs. This should include policy that ensures that mandates, principles and focal areas of the EAP are fair, consistently applied and balanced in respect of the interests of all the various stakeholders. Furthermore:
- It should ensure that there is an EAP Advisory Committee at the highest possible level within the organisation involving representatives from all segments of the workforce.
- It should provide costing models of service delivery that will enhance the services to the organisation in terms of both the individual and the corporate client, resulting in the best possible application of financial resources.
Operational guidelines should be developed to operationalise the programme and provide a framework for EAP. An implementation plan must outline the actions and schedule needed to establish an operationally-effective EAP, delivering specific guidelines for the EAP professionals or practitioners regarding the core technologies to be implemented and their unique application in each organisation.
3. Management and administration:
When it comes to staffing, an appropriate number of suitably qualified EAP professionals must be available to achieve the stated goals and objectives of the programme and every EAP who provides services should be subject to ongoing consultation and supervision. Furthermore:
- To ensure that EAPs deliver the highest levels of professional service, EAP professionals and practitioners must EAP engage and participate in ongoing professional development activities.
- To protect EAP professionals, services providers and the client all EAP professionals must have adequate professional liability insurance.
- To foster professional behaviour EAPs must maintain the highest level of conduct.
- To promote confidentiality and professionalism must maintain confidentiality to protect the individual employee and the interests of all stakeholders.
- To ensure proper administration EAPs must keep accurate records.
4. Clinical services
EAP professionals must conduct an assessment to identify problems on the part of an employee, family member and/or an organisation and develop a suitable treatment plan. They will go on to provide short-term intervention services where necessary and refer clients to an appropriate resource according to their unique needs as revealed by the assessment.
- EAPs will offer trauma defusing and trauma debriefing services in a timely fashion for employees, family members and the organisation in the case of critical incidents.
- EAP will offer intervention services for employees, family members and the organisation in crisis situations, responding to emergencies and urgent situations in a timely fashion in line with organisational policies.
- To ensure quality and cost-effective service, the therapeutic process will be monitored to ensure progress.
- The EAP will ensure that EAP clients receive aftercare and reintegration services
5. Monitoring and evaluation
To ensure that a selected EAP adds value to the organisation and its beneficiaries, the effectiveness of the EAP should be continually monitored and evaluated. This monitoring and evaluation strategy should be developed during the initial design phase of the EAP as a written monitoring and evaluation strategy directly related to the programme’s goals and objective and should be included, upfront, in the programme design and operational manual.
EAPA-SA’s Code of Ethics sets out nine ethical principles that guide the conduct of EAPA-SA members, who must comply with these at all times in the execution of their professional duties. This Code as highlighted below, is designed to provide a set of high standards for EAP practitioners and encourage conduct that will enhance the EA industry’s work, reinforce its values, and promote quality EA services.
The principle of confidentiality refers to the ethical duty on the part of EAPA-SA members to safeguard information entrusted to them by clients with whom they have a professional relationship. This includes the obligation to protect information from unauthorised access, disclosure, modification, loss or theft.
Professional responsibility represents an area of practice in the employee assistance profession whereby members are expected, as professionals, to be accountable for the consequences of their actions and decisions.
Professional competence refers to the ability of EAPA-SA members to act and perform their duties diligently in accordance with the required level of technical skills, knowledge and professional standards.
Professional development embodies activities that develop and maintain the capabilities of professional members in performing competently in their professional environment to ensure that clients receive competent professional services based on current developments in practice, technology and legislation.
The principle of record-keeping relates to a systematic procedure by which the EAP-related records are created, maintained and disposed to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of information kept as EAP records in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act in South Africa.
Members are to put the interest of the client first in all professional activities to ensure fair, responsible and transparent professional services to clients and protect the client from unfair EAP-related trade practices.
The principle of staffing relates to practices stemming from the EAPA-SA standards. EAP members are to follow all the legal frameworks for staffing to promote quality and equality and eliminate unfair discrimination in the recruitment and employment within the EAP profession or enterprises.
This principle refers to the standards of conduct designed to guide practices associated with EAP business; to promote ethical management of EAP enterprises in order to protect and promote the integrity of the EAP profession.
Professional relations amongst members
This principles is concerned with the proper conduct to be exhibited by EAPA-SA members in their professional interactions as EAPA-SA members or with other members to foster the spirit of professional cooperation amongst members and other professionals for the benefit of clients.
The objectivity principles relate to the obligation imposed on all members not to compromise their professional judgment because of bias or negative influence by others.
For the purposes of this Code of Ethics, timely intervention relates to the provision of prompt professional services to customers to minimise disruptions in customers’ personal lives and/or business if they need contracted EAP services from members of EAPA-SA.