Employee Assistance Program (EAP) definition

A service that helps mitigate the effects of employees' personal problems on their workplace engagement, happiness and overall productivity. From a business point-of-view, EAPs help reduce the economic costs of absence and low productivity.

Some of the issues that EAPs seek to address include bereavement, addiction, marital stress, financial problems, stress, mental health concerns and chronic and acute health conditions.

Employee assistance programs typically provide employees with access to key services, including debt management advice, counselling, management referrals and legal guidance. From the employer's point of view, EAPs provide expert case management and advice on dealing with a range of employee issues. Some will also help businesses develop a strategy for preventing and dealing with employees with problems.

Most employees accessing EAP services will refer themselves – awareness-raising by the employer is therefore an important task. However, EAPs will also accept referrals from other key stakeholders, such as HR department or line managers, who may be able to see that an employee needs assistance before the employee can themselves.

Good employee assistance programs work proactively, helping both employees and employers to identify potential issues and take steps to nip them in bud or mitigate their effect. They will also address the wider effects of problems on the workforce as a whole – i.e. one worker's drug problems may bring stresses on colleagues and managers.