Finance News & Insights

Employee assistance programs: 3 ways to boost employees’ usage

Employee assistance programs (EAP) are some of the most prevalent benefits offered by employers.
EAPs are also among the most underutilized. Proof: More than 90% of employers offered an EAP in 2016, but nearly half of those companies reported an EAP utilization rate of 6% or less.

Just 28% said they had a utilization rate of 7% or higher.And an alarming 23% didn’t even know what their EAP utilization rate was. These finding come from a recent study on mental health benefits by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

Mental health issues prevalent

This findings are especially troubling because an increasing number of employees could benefit greatly from the services of an EAP.

The IFEBP study found that at 30% of companies, depression is prevalent or very prevalent among employees, and 22% of firms said the same thing about anxiety.

Around 20% of employers also said alcohol addiction is prevalent/very prevalent with their workforce. These are all issues EAPs are specifically equipped to handle.

Of course, offering a top-notch EAP is only part of the equation. Benefits pros need to convince employees it’s worthwhile to take advantage of.

Proven best practices

To that end, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plan’s (IFEBP’s) Lois Gleason offers the following best practices to help bolster EAP utilization rates:

1. Walk them through the process … in as much detail as possible. Many employees fail to take advantage of their EAP for the simple reason that they don’t know what it is or how it works. So the more details benefits pros can provide on the ins and outs of the program, the better the chances are folks will take advantage.

Most EAPs offer a phone number you can call for assistance. Let workers know exactly what will happen when they call. Answer questions like, Will I be connected with a live person or a recording? Will I get advice on the spot? Will I have to make an in-person appointment for assistance? What information does the EAP send to the employer?

Let employees know exactly what type of info they’ll need to provide – SSN, group number, etc.

2. Consider a “sample” call. If you want to take your explanation a step further, consider doing a few sample calls to your EAP providers in a group setting. Once employees hear exactly what happens during a call, they’ll be more likely to take advantage.

3. Get user feedback – then use it. Asking employees to provide honest and anonymous feedback about your EAP will help you pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. And working with your provider to fix any issues should give utilization a nice lift.

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