Written by Gary Skaleski, FEI EAP Counselor

While many companies help spread the word about benefits to staff through yearly benefit enrollment meetings, emails or brochures, several calls to employee assistance program (EAP) representatives come from employees who first discover their EAP benefit through managers. Sometimes the calls reflect the benefit accurately and callers receive the services they need; other times the information given or implied to employees is not accurate, resulting in disappointment and the inability to service a caller’s expectations. Periodic review of the company’s benefits by managers would help avoid such incidents.

At first, EAP sounds like something meant to address all of the employees’ issues: they are an employee and need some sort of assistance. Calls about resetting passwords, changing insurance coverage, filling out FMLA papers and getting money to help pay bills come to EAP representatives on a regular basis. We have to remind callers that we’re a benefit for them but do not handle every employee issue, nor are we part of the company but rather a separate entity offering EAP services.

The EAP counseling benefit is a short-term, general counseling service and is not part of any insurance company. We cannot look up specialists, and the providers we contract with may or may not be part of the caller’s specific insurance panel (important if they’re seeking long-term treatment and wish to continue utilization beyond the EAP). EAP is a start, but only for brief counseling and/or referral to a specialist in the area. If the EAP provider is also part of the employee’s insurance panel, then of course they can continue treatment after their EAP sessions, but that is something the caller needs to be aware of and follow up on.

For the most part, EAP services include a certain number of counseling sessions for the employee and their eligible dependents as well as a 30 minute legal consultation and telephonic financial assistance service—debt management, budget coaching, student loans, etc.—with a financial counselor. There’s also Work-Life, a search service which helps find local resources for things like child and elder care, adoption, scholarship, day camps and convenience services.

Not every company contracts for these services, though. For example, some only contract for counseling but not legal/financial. Not all EAPs are the same, either, and vary from company to company. Managers need to update themselves as to which services are available for employees at the company, as these may change from year to year. Providers covered under one EAP service may not be covered under the current EAP.

Occasionally a company will change EAP providers but not update the information and/or phone number on the company website or with the managers who often refer workers to the service. Thus calls are made to EAP representatives from those whose companies have switched vendors or may no longer have the benefit at all. Again, periodic updates to managers by human resources would be helpful in getting workers to the correct website or using the right phone number.

Usually when workers are seeking EAP, they are upset, concerned and in need. It should be a priority to minimize the frustration for the caller and always have the most updated information to share with them.

EAP continues to be an important resource for employees, helping jumpstart seeking assistance and ensuring worker peace of mind and company productivity. Knowing the specifics of the benefit at your company will facilitate its use. If you have any questions or concerns about your benefit, please call the EAP at any time to speak with a case manager or the account manager for your company.