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Employee Assistance Programme: The Ultimate Guide

7 min read

The ‘Employee Assistance Programme’ has grown in popularity over the past few years. The conversation around mental health and wellbeing is never far away, and we understand its importance in our personal and professional lives more and more. Employee Assistance Programmes have also become more accessible to smaller businesses wanting to implement them, thanks to technology and scalable solutions. Since the pandemic, there has also been a significant increase in employees turning to the services available to them.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about Employee Assistance Programmes. Whether you have one in place already or you’re looking to establish one in your business, we’ll cover the topics that will help you get the most out of your programme, for you and your employees.

What is an Employee Assistance Programme?

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is the umbrella term for the benefits an employer offers their teams. Employee Assistance Programmes cover personal and/or work-related problems that might impact their physical and mental health, wellbeing or job performance. Generally, EAPs are employer funded and give staff access to free, confidential advice, services, resources and employee perks designed to improve their overall experience in and around the workplace.

Introducing an Employee Assistance Programme is a way for employers to provide their staff with a support structure for their mental and physical health. They help build employee confidence and a positive, people-first company culture. Employee Assistance Programmes can also be an invaluable tool for building trust and nurturing employees by putting their health and wellbeing at the centre of the business.

The employee benefits and services included in these programmes differ from company to company, and we’ll look at what they can include later in this article.

Some businesses might be put off by the upfront cost of implementing Employee Assistance Programmes, but data shows that they are cost-saving for businesses. The EAP Association’s latest research put the return on investment at £8.43 per £1 invested in 2022, an increase from £7.27 in 2021.

It doesn’t matter what stage we are in our careers, how old we are, our personal situations or security; none of us are exempt from life’s problems. Employee Assistance Programmes are designed as a preventative measure, giving anyone in a business the resources to tackle stress early before it becomes burnout, support them through the loss of a loved one, or combat the root cause of anxiety to help improve focus and creativity. The results are a healthier, happier, more secure, and more productive workforce.


What Can an Employee Assistance Programme Include?

Support offered within an Employee Assistance Programme can be wide-ranging. It is up to the individual business to decide what they think would benefit their employees most and support their workplace most effectively. This doesn’t have to cost companies an arm and a leg – get creative!  There are many non-cash employee benefits you could consider including.  

Many EAPs include a health and wellbeing assessment; this helps to direct individuals to the services that will be most valuable to them. These can include:


Many businesses provide their employees with various resources designed to improve their health and wellbeing. They usually include a subscription to specialist information and tools team members can apply to situations or make practical improvements to parts of their lives. Resources can range from concerns about alcohol and dealing with anxiety at work to tips on healthy eating and maintaining a balanced diet.

The enhanced wellbeing programmes can also include access to yoga classes or discounted gym memberships. Exercise is integral to a healthy lifestyle and can be both a preventative and cure for low mood and stress.

Mental Health

We all know how important mental health is. If we didn’t already, it has never been too far away from the news cycle in recent years, and for good reason. Happy employees with good mental health mean a more productive, cohesive and creative workforce.

This is probably why free counselling services are so frequently included in businesses’ Employee Assistance Programmes. In terms of non-cash employee benefits, this is an impactful one.  The counselling should be delivered by an accredited professional who can determine the seriousness of each case, including stress, grief and trauma, and whether it will need to be referred to a specialist.

It’s unlikely any Employee Assistance Programme will have the resource to deal with more severe cases, so it is crucial to have a referral procedure in place so employees with more complex requirements can be helped quickly.

Services offered within an EAP can be online, on the phone or in person. Short-term goal-orientated counselling has been shown to be particularly effective in the workplace. Some businesses even offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as part of their mental health package, which is another proven method for quickly addressing workplace stress and other debilitating mental health conditions.

Financial Advice and Support

In a survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in November 2022, the charity discovered that as many as 10% of adults in the UK feel hopeless about their financial circumstances. In the previous month, 34% felt anxious and 29% felt stressed about money. 

Evidence has also shown that financial distress and poverty directly correlate to mental health problems. By providing financial support at work, employers can offset the potential impact of any issues their staff face with advice and guidance that relieves stress and provides a roadmap to financial recovery.

Learning and development

Many businesses find success in offering specialist coaching or mentoring for staff. Employee perks like these could look at helping managers develop their soft skills, which will help in their career development and teach them how to respond to other team members in distress. Mentoring programmes are also popular; these can be open to all staff members or a specific group, for example, mentoring women in business to help them succeed.

Other ideas that have proven constructive are workshops for staff where they can learn skills to help to relax or manage stress. These can range from breathing exercises to mindfulness.

Support with care responsibilities

Whether it’s for childcare, elderly care or pet care, the care responsibilities of employees are likely to be at odds with their professional life. An Employee Assistance Programme that builds in advice and support on managing these responsibilities can make a huge difference.

Services can range from information about accessing childcare vouchers or care for an elderly relative to recommendations for Doggy Day Care in the local area.


The Benefits of an Employee Assistance Programme

  • Improved staff retention

High employee turnover can be hugely detrimental to a business; it’s costly, damages team morale, and can negatively impact productivity. Employees who feel looked after and valued in their workplace are more likely to stay.

  • Reduced absenteeism

Some of the biggest drivers for absences at work are illness, burnout, childcare issues and family situations. Many of these can be mitigated by benefits for employees included in an Employee Assistance Programme, reducing any distress suffered by the employee and preventing the negative effects of absenteeism.

  • Increased productivity

The aim of an Employee Assistance Programme is to make employees’ lives more manageable, supporting their mental and physical health. Healthy employees are more likely to be engaged with their work and their colleagues, and an engaged workforce tends to be a productive workforce.

  • Cost-effective

Aside from reducing the cost of absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover, and increasing profitability by increasing productivity, EAPs can save businesses money in other ways too. A robust Employee Engagement Programme can also reduce the number of health insurance, disability and long-term sick pay claims.

  • Relieves the burden on managers

Managing a team comes with its own set of stressors. Not only can an Employee Engagement Programme counsel managers through difficult situations, but it also relieves the burden by taking some of the responsibility for supporting team members out of their hands.


How To Make Your EAP A Success

Low utilisation leads to poor return on investment. Most Employee Assistance Programme services use a cost-per-employee per-month model, so encouraging service uptake is vital.

Here are some tips to help make your EAP a success:

  1.       Communicate what’s available to your employees

Tell your employees about the company benefits that are available to them. Show them how to use the service and encourage them to do so. No one is going to use something when they don’t know it’s there.

  1.       Remove barriers to use

Make the system accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so employees can seek help in their own time. Ensure the portal is easy to use and it’s not difficult to navigate to the information and resources available. Offer the service for free. Cost is one of the biggest barriers to employees engaging with their Employee Assistance Programmes.

  1.       Don’t just focus on crisis management

Crisis management services are essential to any Employee Assistance Programme, but they are designed to be as much of a preventative as they are a cure. At the core of your programme should be assistance services that employees can use at the first sign of an issue, tackling stress before it leads to burnout, for example.

  1.       Find a service provider that will work to understand the needs of your business

Like many things in business, your Employee Assistance Programme will be unique to you. Finding a provider who will work with you to ensure what you deliver to your employees suits their needs will be invaluable to making it a success.

  1.       Make sure it’s confidential

Confidentiality is paramount for the success of Employee Assistance Programmes. To feel comfortable using the service, employees need to be confident that whatever they share with a professional within the boundaries of the programme will not be shared with their manager, team or coworkers.

If the trust in the programme is broken, it can be hard to repair, so make sure you have good processes in place from the off.

  1.       Collect data

This doesn’t mean collecting data on what people are talking to their counsellors about, but the overall trends that come out of your employees using the EAP. By looking at what areas people need help with and their satisfaction with the programme, you’ll be able to continue to improve the benefits for employees over time.

Using Factorial to Implement Your Employee Assistance Programme

Factorial’s all-in-one HR software includes an internal communications and events feature that allows you to create posts to keep your team on top of the latest news and events, such as changes to or reminders about your Employee Assistance Programme. These memos can be company-wide or targeted at specific groups, so you can notify different employees and teams about employee benefits most relevant to them! Keeping your workforce updated in this way helps to form a community whilst also ensuring everyone is aware of the services on offer to support them.

From the same place, you can also monitor how your Employee Assistance Programme is being received using our customisable surveys. Gain insight into which employee benefits are most and least popular by creating specific questions and centralising survey responses. That way, you can optimise your benefits programme and increase engagement with it.

Give it a try for free for 14 days and see how Factorial can help you improve your employee benefits strategy. 


Jessie is an experienced content creator and copywriter specialising in technology and telecommunications. She comes to the HR technology space keen to exercise a passion for people and the human resources industry.

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