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How to build a business case for an EAP

Bring mental health support into your workplace with our guide to making a compelling EAP business case.

In this article
What is an EAP business case?The financial business case for an EAPWhat to include in your EAP business caseHow to back up your business case

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  • Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can provide your teams with invaluable mental health support as well as guidance in other big life areas like finances, family, and professional development.
  • To introduce an EAP into your company, you might have to prepare a compelling business case to give the decision-makers reasons to invest in an EAP.
  • Presenteeism, time off, and staff turnover are three impacts of employee mental health that can cost your company a lot of money.
  • A successful EAP business case is well researched, detailed, and specific to your company’s needs.

This year, 17% of employees will struggle with a diagnosed mental health condition that leaves them in emotional pain and unable to work. A further 38% of employees without a mental health condition will be feeling unmotivated, flat, burnout, anxious or low. So, if you’re looking to introduce an EAP into your company, there’s no doubt the support it provides is needed. And it doesn’t just stop at mental health support: EAPs also offer support and guidance in other areas of your employees’ lives, from financial concerns and legal advice, to family challenges and finding a better work-life balance.

Of course, it's not always that easy and sometimes, you’ll need to convince others in your company that investing in an EAP is a good idea. And to do that, you’ll need to make a business case they can’t say no to. 

So, let’s get started! Here's our tips to making a compelling EAP business case to bring mental health support into your workplace.

What is an EAP business case?

💡 An EAP business case is a well-researched presentation of the benefits, costs, and expected outcomes of introducing an EAP into your company. 

When it comes to introducing an EAP, many companies will treat it like any other business decision: the decision-makers will want to know why they should consider it, how much money it will cost them, and whether it really works. And when it comes to mental health in the workplace, there’s still progress to be made. Since the pandemic, 81% of workplaces have increased their focus on employee mental health and yet one in three employees still feel like mental health support in their workplace is inadequate.

For anyone on the fence or in disagreement about an EAP, a well put together business case is your chance to demonstrate its potential value to both the company and its employees.

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The financial business case for an EAP

Let’s be honest: for a lot of companies, the decision to bring in mental health support often falls to the numbers. Regardless of any legal or moral reasons for introducing an EAP (of which there are many), it can be hard to convince the decision-makers to part with the cash and invest in something that ‘only’ proves its worth when it's truly needed.

The solution? Use the numbers below to underline your business case and show the financial cost of doing nothing when it comes to your team’s mental health. 

There are three areas that cost your company money when it comes to mental health

💸 Presenteeism costs a company an average of £918 per employee each year.

Presenteeism describes an employee who is showing up at work everyday but is unable to do their job properly due to their mental health: depression, anxiety, grief, imposter syndrome, or a breakup, are just a few of the mental health challenges that can affect someone’s ability to be productive.

While cases of presenteeism in the last year are thought to have fallen slightly (compared to the pandemic years), it's still very common among people who work from home: 81% of 804 organisations reported seeing it in their remote team members in 2022. In total, presenteeism costs UK employers around £28 billion each year.

💡 What does this mean for your EAP business case? Show the potential total cost of presenteeism in your company by multiplying that £918 by your company’s total number of employees.

💸 Time off work due to poor mental health costs a company an average of £272 per employee each year.

Periods of stress, depression, or anxiety lead to more time off than for any other reason: around 50% of long-term sick leave is due to stress, depression, and anxiety. But, time off doesn’t necessarily mean that your employee is getting the support they need. In all likelihood, they’ll be off work and be without support.

💡 What does this mean for your EAP business case? Once again, show the total cost of time off due to mental health in relation to your company by multiplying the £272 by your total headcount. And for extra measure, throw in the fact that the average time taken off work by an employee due to poor mental health is 18.6 days. That’s a lot of lost work time.

💸 The exit and rehiring costs of someone quitting due to poor mental health costs £339 per employee each year.

If a struggling individual is unable to get support, it’s likely they’ll quit: this could be their own decision, or the advice of a trusted friend or medical professional. According to our own survey of 1,400 employees, 29% have thought about quitting their job due to poor mental health. Deloitte reports even higher numbers: 61% of UK employees who left a job in the last year, or plan to leave in the next 12 months, say poor mental health is a factor.

💡 What does this mean for your EAP business case? Imagine the worst case scenario and that 29% did quit. Take 29% of your total number of employees and multiply it by £339 to show how much this could hypothetically cost your company.

The total cost of not having access to an EAP is huge

Add together your company-specific totals to get the full potential cost of not having access to mental health support in your workplace. Chances are, you’ll be hit with a big, impactful figure: and that’s a great place to start building an EAP business case that can’t be refused.  

How an EAP can help

When it comes to presenteeism, time off, and staff turnover, that’s the common factor?

No support.

In each of the situations described earlier, the company spends unnecessary money because there’s no support in place. So, what could it look like with access to EAP counselling (or any other form of mental health support for that matter)?

💙 The employee coming to work everyday but struggling to get anything done can get support without having to pay for it themselves. Finding help at this stage can go a long way to preventing them from needing to take off in the future.

💙 The employee taking time off work due to mental health can benefit from EAP counselling even if they’re not physically at work. An employee can access EAP services whenever they need it: it's not limited to working hours. This means the employee can get safe, professional support throughout their time off and plan a structured return to work when they’re ready.

💙 The employee wanting to quit may have a change of heart because the company offers mental health support. Not only does this show employees that the company cares about their wellbeing, but it also gives the employee the chance to get help before they consider leaving their job. Of course, multiple different things can contribute to someone struggling with their mental health and leaving work may well still be the best option for them but it's important they had the chance to get professional support first.

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10 things to include in your EAP business case

To give your company the best chance of benefiting from an EAP, you’ll need to make sure your business case is thorough, detailed, and well-researched. Typically, business cases tend to include the following sections:

1. The introduction (Executive summary)

A brief opening section, the executive summary will give an overview of the business case: the purpose of an EAP, its objectives, and the anticipated outcomes.

2. Why the company needs an EAP (Overview of the problem) 

This is your chance to highlight exactly why your company needs an EAP: is it to help reduce the number of days staff are calling in sick? Perhaps your company is facing high staff turnover or redundancies? Maybe there are an increasing number of employees struggling with their mental health? No matter the reason, this section needs to be specific to the challenges your company is facing. Remember to mention any existing employee support services and highlight the gaps in the support they offer.

3. What the EAP aims to achieve (Objectives)

So, you’ve explained why you need an EAP and now you can back that up with specific goals of the EAP: reduce absenteeism, improve employee wellbeing, increase productivity, the list goes on. Make sure each goal is clear and relevant to your company’s problems.

4. What good things the EAP can do for the company and its employees (Benefits)

EAPs are a good thing, right? That’s why you want to introduce one after all! So, make sure everyone is aware of their benefits. And most importantly, be sure to mention how EAPs benefit not only the employees but also the company itself.

5. How much money the company will need to spend on the EAP (Costs)

You’ve already calculated the financial cost of having no mental health support for your company but remember to include other financial information, too. Show you’ve carefully considered the cost of the EAP by analysing not just the total price, but also any costs associated with setting the EAP up and maintaining it, promotional materials, and training staff how to use it. 

6. The value of the EAP (Return on investment) 

This is where you then explain how paying for an EAP could actually save the company money. For example, if you’ve calculated that time off due to mental health costs your company an average of £6,800, project how that amount could change with an EAP in place supporting your team’s mental health. 

7. How the EAP will be introduced into the company (Implementation plan)

Researching and choosing an EAP is just the beginning: the real work begins once it's in place. Come up with a detailed plan for introducing the EAP into your company, including a rough timeline, key people who will need to be involved, and any additional resources needed. Go the extra mile and suggest ways the company can continue to promote the EAP: be sure to demonstrate that the service won’t be forgotten about or go unused. 

8. How the EAP is doing (Evaluation plan)

An EAP is only a good investment if it's actually having a positive impact on your employees, so outline how you’ll measure the EAP’s performance: track the EAP’s uptake, monitor changes in the number of sick days taken, gather regular EAP-specific feedback, or send round regular employee satisfaction surveys.

9. A back-up plan (Alternative support)

It’s always good to have a back-up plan. And if you’re making a business case, having a plan B can not only show how thoroughly you’ve done your research but it also serves as a useful comparison. Take a moment to explore a few alternatives to the traditional EAP (more on that in our article about choosing an EAP), highlighting the pros and cons for your company along the way. It could be that your company decides to bring in a different form of support as a result, or it could confirm that an EAP really is the right way to go.


10. Conclusion (A final summary and recommendation)

Round up the business case with an overview of the key points and use them to make a recommendation for whether or not the company should get an EAP.

How to back up your EAP business case

A successful business case is one that’s been well researched, detailed, and specific to your company’s needs — and goals. Give your company’s decision-makers reasons to invest in an EAP by offering them backed-up insights into the mental health of your company. Then, explain why investing in an EAP is not only beneficial, but is also necessary and easy to do. 

📉 Analyse data you already have

Use data that’s already available to look for trends in your company’s headspace. If you’re part of the HR team, you’ll likely already have access to much of this but if you’re not, reach out to the relevant person and ask for their help. A useful place to start is to look at the number of employee sick days (a lot of sick days could indicate a stressed workforce), the number of holiday days taken (too few and you could have a problem with burnout brewing), and any previous employee wellbeing or satisfaction surveys (a significant change from one year to the next suggests something has happened to cause employee morale to dip).

💙 Ask your team how they’re doing

You’re pitching for a service that’s meant to benefit the whole team, so find out how they’re doing and what support they need. Send round a survey to gather anonymous responses to understand both employee wellbeing in general in your company as well as the things that are affecting productivity. If you’re new to employee wellbeing surveys or want to refresh an existing one, we’ve got you covered

🤓 Do your research

There’s no point building a business case for an EAP if you don’t know what you’re talking about: find out about the different services provided by EAPs and then dig a little deeper to understand how these services can help resolve your company’s problems. Use industry statistics and case studies to support your claims (and if you’re looking for statistics about mental health at work, definitely check out our statistics pages). 

💬 Talk to others to get their experience

Facts and figures will only paint so much of the picture and nothing quite trumps the meaningful insights from real people. Share reviews of people who have an EAP or another form of mental health support already: even better, set up a call with them to get their true, unfiltered take. HR Slack groups and online communities are another great place to get real insights, too.

👍 Make the benefits clear to see

Remember, you’re building a business case: be specific. It's all very well saying that EAPs improve employee wellbeing but in your business case, you’ll need to go into more detail. Quantify your reasons for wanting to get an EAP by calculating the potential financial benefits: how much will reducing the number of sick days save your company? What does increased productivity mean for the business?

The business case for Spill

It could be very easy for us to blow our own trumpet here and do the hard sell on Spill. After all, we help companies reduce their spend on mental health challenges by offering high-quality corporate therapy to people who need it most. But nope, we’ll refrain and instead share some of the reasons why our amazing customers decided that Spill was the best choice for the challenges their teams were facing.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve shifted to a fully remote workforce, but with this comes a higher risk of burnout, a lack of community, and a sense of isolation for our employees. So, we decided to be proactive and prevent these issues from existing in the first place. We ran through several options but it was Spill that went above and beyond for us. Not only is it easy to install and use, it feels friendlier and less clinical in tone, and the quality of therapists meets our high standards. We also love that it allows people to opt-out instead of having them opt-in.”

— Thomas Forstner, Head of People & Talent at Juro

👉 Read Thomas’ full chat with Spill

“During the pandemic, we rolled out a blanket £500 allowance for the THIS team to spend on their physical and mental health each year. We have a really good culture of talking about mental health in the business, but we noticed that people were mostly using their allowance on physical health. We realised that it’s harder for people to know where to spend money when it comes to their own mental wellbeing. Plus, getting access to therapy can be a long process, and it’s easy to put off if you aren’t in the midst of a crisis. Since launching Spill, uptake for one-off therapy sessions and courses of therapy have been high: people are using it proactively. I love the fact that Spill’s integrated with Slack and because it’s so visible to the team, it’s a benefit that stays front of mind. Everything is simple and intuitive, to have instant support there for the team is just priceless.”

— Linh-Chi Nguyen, Head of People at THIS

👉 Read Linh-Chi’s full chat with Spill

“During a period of rapid growth, we needed to introduce an extra layer of management. Being a new manager is daunting: as well as becoming comfortable with strategy and delegation, you’re expected to support the professional and personal development of your reports. So, we started looking for a support system for people at every level of the business. Our team knows Spill is there when they need it: it sits in Slack ready for them and it signals that the company supports them as human beings, not just employees. It’s also brought the topic of mental health into the manager-report relationship, giving managers something to refer their reports to, and turn to themselves.”

— Amy Cowpe, Chief of Staff at CharlieHR

👉 Read Amy’s full chat with Spill

Every company will have its own needs and the most important to thing to remember when building the case for an EAP is that whatever support you go for, it has to help your specific challenges and goals. Take a look at our resources on how to choose an EAP provider and if your company decides its not the right way to go, that's okay: there are plenty of alternatives out there that still support your team's emotional health. You've got this!

Submit document logo

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