As one of their employee benefits, many employers offer Employee Assistance Plans. These are cost-effective programs aimed at improving employees' mental health and well being. Employee Assistance Plans are sometimes referred to as wellness plans.
Some of the counseling, coping and treatment services that Employee Assistance Plans provide include:
Mental health and wellness. Counseling services help employees or their dependents cope with the loss of a family member or to deal with a wide range of anxieties. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., employees reportedly turned to using their EAP benefits more.
Substance abuse. Employee Assistance Plans often provide treatment services for alcohol or substance abuse. Substance abuse affects millions of working Americans. Employers find that some level of rehabilitation effort is cheaper than wholesale dismissal of troubled employees. Hiring and training new employees often requires an investment that sometimes makes treatment services a less expensive option.
Marital and family problems. Employee Assistance Plans sometimes offer arbitration/mediation and dispute-resolution services to help strained or abusive relationships that employees may have with co-workers, family members or others.
Personal debt management. Professional counseling and treatment services may identify an employee's gambling addiction, compulsive use of credit or similar dysfunction that impairs their work performance.
Millions of worker-hours are lost each year to employee absenteeism, turnover and poor productivity. By diagnosing and focusing on encouraging favorable behavioral change, Employee Assistance Plans help to mitigate these workplace-related problems.
If an Employee Assistance Plan is not included in your health insurance plan, you may be able to negotiate with your benefits administrator to add coverage for little extra cost. Employers can also set up and administer their own plan. Expenses for Employee Assistance Plans may be excludable under IRS rules for treatment of fringe benefits. For more information, see IRS Pub. 15B.
For more information, see the Web site of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA). Established in 1971, the non-profit association has nearly 100 worldwide chapters. EAPA certifies employee assistance professionals and runs a public policy and employee-assistance advocacy center.