Spill costs less per therapy session than an EAP, because 10x more people use it.
Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) offer mental health support from as little as 40p per employee, per month. That’s cheap enough to tempt around 88% of UK companies to offer an EAP as part of their wellbeing benefits package.
This kind of blanket cover might make some HR teams feel a bit lighter, but are EAPs earning their keep when it comes to improving employee mental health? EAP usage is typically low, and 31% of businesses say they’ve never actually tried to work out the impact of their employee assistance programme.
💡 Only 9% of UK companies measure the ROI of their employee assistance programme, meaning there’s little chance of holding them to account if it’s underdelivering
So does the average employee assistance programme really represent good value for money? Let’s crunch some numbers.
Five reasons to measure the ROI of your EAP
Measuring the return on Investment of your employee assistance programme (EAP) is the only way to really understand the impact it's having on your organisation and employees and make informed decisions about future investment. Here's five reasons why this is an important metric to measure:
1. Evaluate effectiveness 💙
At it's most basic level, measuring ROI helps determine whether your EAP is effectively meeting the needs of your employees. A positive ROI shows that people are able to access and use the service successfully, which makes decisions much simpler when it comes to renewing or extending your EAP contract.
2. Justify the cost 💰
EAPs may not be expensive, but they're still a recurring business expense that could be invested elsewhere. Demonstrating a positive ROI helps justify this cost to upper management and prove that investing in employee wellbeing has a direct impact on staff productivity, absenteeism, and staff turnover.
3. Pinpoint areas for improvement 🎯
Regularly reviewing the impact your EAP is having helps to quickly identify areas that are falling below expectations. For example, low usage could indicate that you need a better communication strategy to promote your EAP to employees.
4. Benchmark against other solutions 🔍
Measuring your EAP's ROI allows you to compare its performance to industry standards and other providers, but also to directly compare against other employee wellbeing solutions such as wellness apps, mental health training courses, or specialist counselling solutions like Spill.
5. Show people you really care 🏆
A successful EAP that's proven to help your team feel healthier and happier at work shows that you are committed to investing in and improving employee wellbeing. With over 70% of employees now listing mental health support as a top consideration when choosing a new job, this can have a big impact when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
The return on investment for mental wellbeing initiatives
A Deloitte report in 2020 proposed that for every £1 spent on supporting people’s mental health, employers get £5 back on average as a result of reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.
Coming into work while experiencing poor mental health. It’s nearly impossible to perform at full capacity when you’re feeling exhausted, distracted or unmotivated.
Taking days off work due to poor mental health.
The costs of replacing employees who have left for mental health reasons. That includes things like recruitment, training, and new salary costs.
The return on investment for employee assistance programmes (EAPs)
A report in the same year by the EAPA (the Employee Assistance Programme Association) calculated that employers will earn back an average ROI of £7.27 if they invest that £1 in an EAP. That’s a boost in ROI of £2.27. So far, so positive. But these results look a bit less shiny if we think about the number of people who actually access help through their EAP (and the cost of everyone who doesn’t).
🤯 Poor mental health costs UK businesses £2,646 per worker, per year
A 2022 study by Deloitte added up the cost of poor mental health to employers in the UK (and it’s actually gone up by 25% since 2019). £2,646 is the average annual cost to a business in the professional services industry, which includes advertising, accountancies, and consultancies. This rises to a staggering £3,710 per worker in finance, insurance and real estate businesses. Again, this cost can be attributed to presenteeism, absenteeism, and staff turnover.
How common is poor mental health at work?
Mind UK estimates that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. So we can assume that 25% of your team will, too. (Though it’s likely that up to 55% of your team don’t feel that mentally limber, even if they’re not experiencing an acute problem.)
Download our free EAP evaluation checklist
Make sure you're asking the right questions when buying an EAP (or weighing up the one you already have)
What's the average usage for an employee assistance programme (EAP)?
EAP usage sits at around 10%, according to a report by the EAPA. But that includes anyone accessing EAP services at all, which might mean calling the support switchboard or reading some self-help resources about anxiety online – not necessarily receiving treatment (in the form of counselling or therapy) for their mental health problem. That proportion is much, much lower.
Sharon McCormick, clinical director of The Listening Centre spoke to the BACP (the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) about national EAP services in 2020, and she reported:
“Out of 1,000 calls, they signpost 60% to self-help. About 20% need financial and legal help, and those who need debt advice are signposted to a national charity at no cost to the EAP. Another 20% may need counselling but they left it to them to contact the counsellor and many didn’t.”
To put that into context, only a fifth of the 10% of your workers who contact your EAP (so, 2% total) will be invited to take part in meaningful counselling. Whether they’re in the state of mind to chase it and get booked in is a different matter.
Spill is typically used by 50% of employees in a year. That means up to 10 times as many people get support vs. an EAP.
Working out the ROI for employee assistance programmes
🔍 The anti-maths
So that’s at least 23 people in your mid-size business who need therapy this year, and won’t receive it.
[No. of people untreated] x [Average cost of poor mental health per person]
= 23 x £2,646
= £60,858 cost to your business, every year 😱
Even for a small business with 20 employees, that’s over £12,171 a year in cash lost. That’s not to mention the personal cost for anyone struggling with their mental health. It’s hard to reflect how truly painful that can be in business-y figures like these.
Why don’t employees use employee assistance programmes (EAPs)?
There are a few reasons that EAP usage is typically low:
- Quite often, employees don’t know what an EAP is, who their company’s provider is, or what support’s on offer. It takes a lot of cheerleading from HR to remind people of the resources on hand.
- Emailing HR to find out how to access mental health support can make employees feel quite conspicuous, especially if there’s any stigma around mental health hanging around your business. This can become a significant barrier to employees seeking out the help they need.
- Once someone on your team has the number to call, ringing a helpline can be intimidating. Waiting 12 hours for a callback and having to explain your situation to a stranger on the phone can feel overwhelming when you’re already struggling with your mental wellbeing.
- Referral to counselling can take a little while, even once someone’s been approved to access 1-1 support. Often, your employee needs to be the one chasing the help they’ve been promised. All that takes a lot of mental energy.
EAPs don’t cover everyone. If an employee has experienced a mental health issue in the past, for example, they might not be able to access mental health support through an Employee Assistance Programme. It’s always worth reading the smallprint on your contract to check.
What's the alternative to EAPs?
At Spill, we believe that (waaaay) more than 2% of your team deserve proper mental health support. That’s why we’ve made it easy for every employee to access therapy anonymously through Slack and MS Teams. We also offer a clever check-in tool to proactively track your team’s mood without a big monthly survey.
💡 Typical Spill usage averages at 50% of staff
That means, if we go back to our 100-person company, not only can we reach those 25 people who need help, we’re also helping 25 others to proactively maintain their mental health and prevent those problems from cropping up in the future.
Get our free EAP evaluation checklist
Work out whether you're getting good value for money with an EAP
Spill gets used 10x more than an EAP, making it cheaper per therapy session actually used