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Employee Assistance Programs Essay, Research Paper

Implementing Employee Assistance Programs


When the average employee hears the words “employee assistance programs”, he may immediately think of medical benefits. Another employee may think of Workers Compensation. Yet another may think of further training for possible advancement. Although all of their conceptions are true, they are not all inclusive. There are several parts to the vehicle called Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs. Employee Assistance Programs are defined by Myers as “structured programs that utilize technical, administrative, and professional human services and personnel people, on either a contractual or employment basis, to meet the needs of troubled employees” (4). EAPs are needed so that the work environment is safe and productivity is as high as possible. This benefits the employees as well as the employers. The process of creating and implementing EAPs will be discussed.

It is important to define who the troubled employee is, how the EAPs are to be structured, and how it is that the troubled employee is helped through the structured programs. As those three areas are discussed, some of the statistics that make these EAPs necessary, or at the very least, helpful, will be looked at also.

The Troubled Employee

Many of us have seen Gus he s the one who believes that in order to ease the hang over from last nights party, he has to have a drink the next morning. But it may not stop there. He needs a sip around 10am to take the edge off. Whatever he does on his lunch is his business so he may go home and have a couple of beers before returning to his job – at the factory. Gus probably has a problem with alcohol, as do 6 to 10 percent of the employee population (Myers 5). Of that number, 30 percent of them are manual workers (Myers 5). In any situation, this could become quite costly if there were an accident on the job. There are the obvious medical bills, Workers Compensation, destroyed or otherwise broken machinery, and the cost of training new employees. 47 percent of industrial accidents are alcohol related (Cascio 587). It is clear that an alcoholic employee is a troubled employee.

Next on the list is Sharon. Sharon comes into the office every morning at least 10 minutes late and when she does, she s pretty irritated. Around 9:30, she leaves for a coffee break and returns with a silly smile on her face, an odd smell on her clothing and a dire need for cupcakes. She generally “sneaks out” 30 minutes early from work. After a little investigating, it is found out that Sharon smokes marijuana during her lunches and her breaks. When Sharon returns from her “coffee breaks”, she is disoriented and sloppy. Sharon is the finance department for a locally owned department store. She writes all of the checks for the store, sends out payroll and does all of the general bookkeeping. This could become a costly problem for her employer if the situation is not rectified. Recreational drug users like Sharon typically “steal time” from their employers to help support their drug habits.

They use more sick days, are more likely to file workers compensation claims and are 1/3 less productive than other workers (Cascio 588). In Sharon s case, the cost can run higher simply because of the nature of her position. If Sharon transposed numbers on checks, forgot to write a check or forgot to log a check into the bookkeeping system, she could end up costing her company much more than time.

Many employees do steal a bit more than time from their companies. Employee theft ranges from cheating the employer out of time and office supplies to stealing money. Sharon, if given the inkling, could rework the bookkeeping where she works so that she could embezzle money. This may seem a bit far fetched to most people. However, employee theft is cause for concern because it is estimated that white collar crime in this area alone cost businesses $100 million dollars annually (Myers 7).

There may be personal reasons behind why an employee would steal from his employer. Gus could be having financial problems resulting from his excessive drinking. He may be inclined to take work materials from his job in order to do some things on the side, or even sell the merchandise he stole for extra money. If Sharon is having problems with child care or home responsibilities, her work performance may be significantly affected. Studies show that this type of stress on a woman in the workforce contribute to the high rate of alcoholism among working women (Myers 7). It is suspected that this stress contributes to higher rates of drug use as well.

Also on the list of troubles are gambling, legal problems, violence and mental illness. 80 to 100 million people in the United States gamble regularly. Of that number, 6 percent ( six million people) have a problem with compulsive gambling (Myers 6). Violence is a serious issue in the workplace. As many as 20 workers a week are murdered (Cascio 589). On-the-job violence may be the effect of any number of stressors on an employee who feels there is no other way to vent his frustration. There could be any number of reasons, previously stated and otherwise, that might precipitate legal problems also. Legal problems and gambling debts are two additional stressors that an otherwise outstanding employee may have to tackle, causing him to be violent or in some other way troubled.

An employee may have other issues that may not be as obviously dangerous and alcoholism or violence. However, these other issues may be equally or more costly. An employee may have physical and mental health issues. It is estimated that employers lose approximately $17 billion dollars per year due to the 35 percent of the workforce experiencing some type of emotional dysfunction (Myers 8). These mental health issues range from mild depression to severe schizophrenia. It is also estimated that US companies spend 26 percent of their earnings on health care costs (Cascio 590). Heart disease, smoking, and other unhealthy lifestyle attributes cost employers billions of dollars every year.

Employee Assistance Program Models

Now that the troubled employee has been identified, a program needs to be put in place to assist him. Although it is believed, according to the statistics mentioned earlier, that these kinds of problems occur in a large percentage of workplaces, a good personnel manager will want to create realistic goals for the company. Then he will want to find out what the employees want and need before he began to put together a plan of action. Next, he will want to actually create the EAP according to a model that works best for the company. Then, he will teach managers and supervisors how to do their part in assisting the employee. This includes a referral system so that when an employee is found to be in some type of trouble, he can be assisted as soon as possible. Once the players are in place to help, an open system of communication must be created and fostered so employees know that there is a place where they can go for help.

In order to create realistic goals, the personnel manager may need to look outside of the company and find out what other companies in the same industry of comparable size are doing in these areas (Kizer 42). He may start broad, focusing on the general problems in America on the wellness and EAP issues. He should then begin to focus locally on other companies in the area combating the same type of issues and discuss the possibility of a consortium type of program, if one exists. Here is where the personnel manager would learn more about the product he is about to sell.

Assessment of the employee base is the net step in creating a good EAP model. The best way to assess the employees may be described as an internal marketing plan. The personnel manager should begin to think like a marketing manager. He needs to sell the employees of the company on the idea that they need to become involved in programs for their own well being. The employees need to participate in a strategic marketing plan for the benefit of their own physical, mental and emotional health. The next step in the assessment process is to find out what it is that the employees need. This may not be quite as easy. Although the questionnaires may be confidential, it may be difficult to get an employee to admit that he has a drug problem or a emotional problems. However, this questionnaire is not for the purpose of preparing the programming yet. It is for the purpose of learning about the population (the employees) (Kizer 46).

According to Kizer, the employees will fall into 3 groups:

20% will be fit.

60% will be near well. Some may smoke. Some are overweight. Some have other health issues that can easily be corrected. This is the target audience for Health Promotion Programs, or HPPs.

20% are at risk because of family history and excessive, self destructive lifestyles. Although they may benefit some from the HPPs, they are not considered part of the target audience (46).

This is where the problem becomes tricky. Since the beginning of the creation of EAPs, there have been numerous ways of setting them up and monitoring them. There is no consistent use of terms to describe the functions of the EAP so, for the sake of clarity, each model will be explained in terminology comparable to one another, in relation to the source of the material. Myers states that there are four major EAP functions. They are Planning, Organizing and Implementing, Client Service and Controlling (70).

Employee Assistance Programs should have built-in goals and policies, based on the information gathered from the initial assessment stage. There need to be specific procedures in place so that managers and supervisors know exactly what to do when there is an employee in crisis and when to take action. Employees also need to see a clear path to getting their needs met.

Organizing and implementing is a long process. After setting goals and creating a working system, the EAP needs to be introduced to the company. Supervisors need to be trained for specific procedures and educated on EAP policies. The employees need to see clear channels of communication and an open invitation to communicate that they have needs.

The employee becomes the client when a clear need for assistance has been found. According to Shane, Suurvali, & Boutilier, EAPs are meant to deal with alcohol and drug problems, domestic issues, mental health issues, legal problems, financial problems, housing problems, daycare problems, and other work-related issues (78). The client should be serviced in an efficient manner and should be followed by the EAP from assessment to aftercare, as described next by Myers (72).

Assessment – determine the problem(s).

Diagnosis – decide what service provider(s) the client needs to solve the problem(s).

Case Planning – define service plan for client, define costs and payment arrangements.

Service Delivery – render services agreed to in case planning. Services will vary in time and cost, depending on client.

Case Monitoring – the EAP councilor, which may also be the personnel manager, needs to be in constant communication with both parties of Service Delivery: the provider and the client. It is the EAP councilor s job to be sure the EAP is working and the best way to do this is to monitor the case closely.

Case Closure – the client services are terminated for any number of reasons, including the service plan has been implemented, the service is no longer needed, and the client is not making progress.

Case evaluation – the services are evaluated for effectiveness.

Crisis Intervention – immediate client service because of serious conditions.

Aftercare – professional assistance that continues after the case has closed, such as therapy and job reentry assistance (70-74).

The control function of the EAP is a type of evaluation management conducts on the program periodically. The EAP councilor has to collect data to evaluate performance. This will decide the value of the EAP services (Myers 74).

Once this type of information is in place, it is time to decide how to house the program. There are several ways to do this. There are internal programs and external programs. Internal programs are staffed by actual employees of the company where external programs are staffed by companies that sell EAP services. Examples of internal programs are employer-sponsored and union only. Because EAP models vary from industry to industry and business to business, only the basics of each model and its general characteristics will be discussed.

Internal Programs

Employer At best, these can be described as programs created, housed and manned by the employer.

Union-Only These internal programs only service union members in a particular line of business. For example, a particular union that supports mechanics workers may provide a alcohol recovery center.

External Programs

Hotlines This type of EAP model allows the employee to simply call in to a local or long distance phone service. The listener on the hotline is trained to assess the employee problems. Hotlines seem to be the most accessible of the models.

Consortium These are non profit organizations that provide EAP services for client organizations for a fee. They are generally offsite and may not be as accessible.

Contractor These are for profit organizations that provide specific EAP services for fees. The client organization provides a coordinator as a link between the contractor and the employees. An example would be Nova House, an outpatient organization designed for the treatment of alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

How to Help Gus and Sharon and Other Employees:

A Conclusion

Now to the point: how do employees like Gus and Sharon benefit from programs like these. With an employee that has a problem with alcohol, like Gus, supervisors should be trained to identify the troubled employee. Cascio suggests proceeding in this manner:

Document – At the first sign of a problem, keep close track of performance problems like absenteeism, accidents or other errors and conflicts on the job.

Confront – Based on performance only, construct a meeting with the employee to focus on the problem. As the conversation progresses, make clear the need for improvement and take the employee to see help. It is important to keep the focus on job performance for legal purposes.

Although at this point, the Employee Assistance Programs is in place, this is far from a conclusion. The EAP needs to constantly and consistently monitored and evaluated. This is the only way to know if the employees are really being helped. And even if they are being helped, is the company benefiting from the newly rehabilitated employee. As much as the average person might like to think that EAPs exists because companies are altruistic, this simply isn t the case. EAPs exist so that the company can be run in an efficient manner. It is not always expedient to fire the Sharon s and Gus in the world. Sometimes it is less expensive to rehabilitate the trained employee rather than train a new employee – an employee with no guarantees that he won t have more problems. People, in the site of companies, are not expendable. EAPs are in place for employees that need assistance because of personal problem but are still worth a great deal to the employers.


Cascio, Wayne. Managing Human Resources. Denver: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Kizer, William M. The Healthy Workplace. Omaha: John Wiley & Sons, 1987.

Myers, Donald W. Establishing and Building Employee Assistance Programs. West Port: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Shain, Martin, Helen Suurvali, and Marie Boutilier. Healthier Workers: Health Promotion and Employee Assistance Programs. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1986.

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