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9 employee assistance programme (EAP) benefits for employers

Weighing up the pros and cons of an EAP for employers

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What does an EAP offer?What are the benefits of an EAP?What are the limitations of an EAP?Final EAP considerations for employers

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  • EAPs are mutually beneficial for both employers and employees, contributing to a happy, healthy workforce that's more engaged and productive.
  • While EAPs offer cheap, blanket mental health cover, they lack a proactive approach, relying on employees to seek help only when they're already feeling unwell.
  • EAP benefits for employers include higher productivity, lower absenteeism, improved team morale, reduced turnover, a strong reputation, confidentiality, and 24/7 availability.

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are one of the few workplace benefits that are mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. A happy, healthy employee is more engaged with the company and more productive in their role, which has a positive impact on overall team morale and the company's bottom line.

An EAP can be a useful workplace benefit offering super cheap, blanket mental health cover for all employees of a business. They usually come with a big brand name attached, too, and provide a range of basic services for your team. But despite these benefits, traditional EAPs don’t offer a proactive mental healthcare service. They rely on your employees approaching them for advice or counselling. And all too often, people only ask for help once they’re already feeling unwell (in other words: too late).

So, is an employee assistance programme the best option for your business? It depends on whether you’re looking for a mental health safety net or a more active model of support. Let’s weigh up the pros and cons. 

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What are the benefits of an EAP for employers?

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide support for employees around a range of personal and professional challenges. And helping people to feel their best and thrive at work also brings a whole heap of meaningful benefits for employers.

1. Higher productivity

Presenteeism (showing up for work without being productive due to poor mental health) is a growing problem, and something that nearly half (47%) of UK employees have experienced. EAPs can help employees to identify and address personal issues that might be affecting their performance at work, leading to increased productivity and a higher quality of output. It's no surprise that happy employees are 13% more productive.

2. Lower absenteeism

Poor mental health is the biggest causes of absenteeism in the workplace. In fact, it’s behind 43% of all sick days taken in the UK. EAPs can help employers tackle this problem head on by building emotional strength and resilience, reducing the number of employee sick days and the financial impact this has on the business.

A graph showing that mental health was the top reason for days off sick from work in the UK in 2021.
Mental health was the top reason for days off sick in 2021

3. Improved team morale

Morale goes a long way in determining a team’s productivity and contribution to a company – a discontent team may lack motivation, be inefficient with their time and have high turnover. Having an EAP available as a valuable resource for employees shows that you care about their wellbeing, which can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved morale, and a more positive work environment. Modern EAP alternatives (like Spill) often come with culture tools built in to help employees feel valued and cared for.

4. Fewer people leaving

65% of job leavers say their decision to quit was driven by poor mental health that they experienced while in the role. EAPs can help employees cope with issues like stress or burnout at an early stage, reducing the likelihood of them leaving the company (and avoiding the hiring and training costs that come with replacing them).

Spill's Safety Net feature proactively spots early signs of poor mental health and reaches out to support employees quickly, before things get worse

5. A strong reputation

73% of employees now consider mental health support when choosing a new job and are actively looking for forward-thinking companies that care about their mental health. Having an EAP (or a modern alternative like Spill) clearly displayed on your careers page and job listings signals to potential employees, clients, and partners that you are a responsible employer, and can have a big impact when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

A screenshot of company benefits from allplants' career page, including Spill.
Companies like allplants proudly showcase mental health support on their careers page

6. Emotionally intelligent managers

One of the best ways to improve employee wellbeing is to teach managers the skills to get more in tune with their team’s feelings. EAPs can provide team leaders with resources and support to understand their colleagues' emotional needs, address any performance-related issues or conflict effectively, and maintain a happy and healthy work environment.

Other EAP benefits for employers

7. EAPs are usually very cheap

A big benefit of EAPs for employers is the price. You can get EAP cover from as little as 40p, per employee, per month, as long as you sign up to a contract, which usually lasts for 12 months minimum. Critically, they are free at the point of use, so unless your EAP refers your employee to another specialist service, they won’t have to pay for anything out of their own pocket. Find out how EAPs can offer comprehensive cover so cheaply

8. EAPs are confidential

Accessing an EAP is completely confidential. As long as the EAP helpline is well signposted internally, then employees can seek help without having to discuss any sensitive issues with their manager or HR. Any reporting back to the business, like usage stats, will be completely anonymised, too. 

9. An EAP is always-on

A 24/7 helpline can be a big benefit of an EAP service. If you’re feeling under the mental weather, then taking action can’t always wait until the next working day. An EAP helpline is usually a kind of triage service, designed to signpost you towards the right help or resources. If you need proper counselling, you may still have to wait up to 5 days to talk to a professional – and there will be a limit on the total number of sessions you can complete before being referred elsewhere. 

What are the benefits of an EAP for employees?

As well as having a positive impact from a business perspective (in terms of lower absenteeism, higher productivity and fewer sick days), Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) also have lots of important benefits for employees resulting from improved emotional resilience and mental health:

  • Improved mood and feeling more positive, confident, and motivated.
  • Stronger, more meaningful relationships both inside and outside of work.
  • Higher focus, concentration and productivity.
  • Increased resilience and feeling more able to cope with (and bounce back from) stressful situations.
  • Better sleep quality and higher energy levels.
  • Increased job satisfaction, engagement and retention due to feeling more supported and valued by the company.

Give your team instant access to next-day therapy with fully qualified BACP- or NCS-registered counsellors.

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What are the limitations of an EAP?

While EAPs can be a useful resource for employees, they do have some limitations that should be considered when evaluating their effectiveness and determining how to best support employees.

1. EAPs need a lot of cheerleading

Just 5.4% of employees typically interact with an EAP by logging in to read a resource or calling the helpline. And because they charge a set price per person, per month, it’s not really in an EAP’s interests to help you boost this number. That means it’ll take a big effort from the People team to promote it and make sure everyone knows how to get in touch with their EAP when needed. Small businesses without HR resources to spare may find getting teams to engage with their EAP tricky. This notoriously low usage can put some of EAP benefits (like price) into perspective.

2. Accessing help through an EAP can be a hassle

Getting triaged through a helpline and then waiting for a referral to counselling can be a frustrating process when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Most employees won’t have the helpline number to hand, either, so will need to go through HR and potentially compromise their anonymity. If a worker gets directed to therapy rather than the online self-help resources, they’re also likely to be assigned any counsellor with availability, rather than one with experience that matches their concern. 

3. EAPs are a light-touch solution

Buying an EAP is a fairly standard way of showing your team that you’ve invested in their mental health, but it’s really the bare minimum a company can offer. And workers are beginning to see it as such. EAPs can’t usually support your managers to have better conversations with their teams about mental health, nor can they help you to really challenge your company culture for the better. Usage reports can show how many people have used an EAP, but not how valuable people have found it. They also can’t help you to track how your team’s feeling more generally, so you’ll stay in the dark when it comes to team mood – unless you implement an employee wellbeing survey separately. 

Final EAP considerations for employers

There are plenty of EAP benefits for employees, and they have an important role to play for businesses looking to support their team’s wellbeing on a small budget. But how effective they are depends massively on whether people in your team know about, and use, the resources available. As a reactive and wide-reaching service, it’s likely that EAPs have a bigger impact on workers experiencing low-level stress or anxiety than more complex mental health problems which need an ongoing clinical response. 

Spill therapy includes all the best parts of an EAP (targeted mental health support from qualified counsellors), with a whole host of additional features:

  • Therapy sessions available the next day, and accessible in just a few clicks
  • No employees get turned away due to pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Flexible pricing options with no annual subscription fee
  • Therapy sessions are end-to-end encrypted and fully secure
Are EAPs a company benefit?
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Get 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)

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.

See how Spill stacks up against EAPs