Employee assistance programs

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides an employer-funded, accessible and free confidential support service for workers. By a workplace offering EAP, it encourages workers to seek out support early, helping them to overcome issues or concerns before they worsen and minimising impact on the person’s health, work performance and productivity.

It can be used to assist a worker with both work and non-work related issues and may address areas such as poor mental health, trauma, substance abuse, relationship issues, work-related stress and the management of change.

The design and delivery of an employer’s EAP is generally tailored to meet the specific requirements of the workplace, including the number of sessions provided to workers and if services extend to immediate family members. In addition to the one on one counselling service, an EAP may also offer other services such as ‘manager assist’ (a management coaching service) and/or providing support following traumatic events.

What are the benefits?

An EAP can help workplaces adopt a more proactive, preventative approach to workplace mental health and assist in creating a culture of care. It can help workers to resolve issues and stress early before they become overwhelming. With untreated mental health conditions resulting in over 6 million lost working days and 12 million days of reduced productivity every year in Australia (headsup.org.au), EAP can provide professional support to help workers experiencing anxiety or depression to stay at or return to work, benefiting both the worker and the business.

Where can I find out more about EAP providers?

The Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia (Inc) is the peak body representing provider and user members that supply Employee Assistance Programs in the workplace. Their website www.eapaa.org.au lists Australian EAP provider members and services available in South Australia and other jurisdictions.

What if I run a small business?

While smaller organisations may not have the resources to provide an EAP, there are a range of things business owners can do to support workers. The Heads Up website, www.headsup.org.au provides information specifically for small business owners and managing others.

Learn more ways to create and maintain a mentally healthy workplace or speak to our mentally healthy workplaces consultant (PDF, 223 KB).