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More workers seeking support from employee assistance programmes

Young Asian remote worker talking on mobile phone

There has been a big increase in the number of employees in the UK turning to their employee assistance programme (EAP) during the pandemic -- making this benefit even better value for employers.

An EAP gives support and practical advice on issues that might be impacting people's wellbeing and performance. The support provided can vary, but typically includes access to emotional counselling, financial, debt, legal and childcare information, and physical and mental health information services and support.

New figures from industry body the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) UK show that 347,000 more employees accessed support from their employee assistance programme between October 2020 and October 2021 compared with the previous year.

As a consequence of higher usage, employers are seeing a higher return on investment (ROI) from their EAP. For every £1 spent on an EAP in the UK, employers have seen an average ROI of £8.00 -- up from a previous average of £7.27.

This data is based on evidence from information provided by 3,200 HR professionals, representing anonymised information on seven million employees.

"Figures like these on usage and ROI don't convey the full picture of what's been happening among employees," commented Paul Roberts, EAPA UK board member and research project lead. "Behind the numbers are human stories. We know from all of our conversations with EAP providers that the average call now involves more complexity, more employees with multiple issues to deal with, meaning more stretch and strain for operations.

"EAPs have stood up to the test -- dealing with the additional volume of calls and contact, more need for ongoing counselling -- and continue to do so despite shortages of counselling staff."

EAPA UK chair Eugene Farrell believes that higher EAP usage is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

"We're seeing the gradual fall-out from disrupted and changing lives, from more uncertainty," Farrell explained. "During these times HR need to be demonstrating the specific value of their focus on wellbeing and the ROI data can be part of this: for benchmarking, illustrating the value of active communications and engagement, and for looking at the potential impact of trying different models of services and changing the level of investment."

Of course, it's essential that employees understand what support is available to them through their EAP.

Research by GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, shows that only 40% of staff think that their employer is effective in the communication of employee benefits, and over a quarter (26%) say their employer is 'not effective'.

"A significant amount of time, resources and financial investment is spent in getting the right benefits in place for staff but they have to be communicated, and communicated effectively, for the full value to be had," said Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD.

"We know that many organisations have had to double down on their efforts to provide relevant employee benefits in this new era of hybrid working, but all of these endeavours are not as effective as they could be if staff don't know what employee benefits are available or have insufficient understanding to appreciate them."

Posted by Fidelius on February 22nd 2022

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