EAP counselling can be a bit of an unknown for some companies. Business owners or HR managers want to provide a quality service for their employees, but they don’t know where to start in choosing the right one. Three of the most critical questions companies should ask prospective providers is the professional quality of their counsellors, what experience they have in your industry’s field and the service’s hours of operation. If you receive the answers you are looking for, chances are the provider will be a good fit for your organisation and its employees.
What is an EAP?
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a service provided by employers to help workers maintain their wellbeing in an increasingly complicated world. Counselling can assist with anyone dealing with personal and work-related problems. Employees could be suffering from minor issues such as low mood, irritations and worries to complex conditions, such as anxiety disorders, acute stress, depression, psychiatric conditions and may have suicidal thoughts and behaviours. These can be brought on by things like relationship breakdown, conflict at home or work, addiction, accumulative life issues, sleep difficulties, past or present trauma and grief - to name just a few.
A confidential counselling service can help employees deal with these issues and get back to leading a happy and productive life at home and work. With so many companies requiring these services in recent years, there has been an influx of counselling providers, good and bad.
According to the IBIS World’s Employee Assistance Program Services – Australia Market Research Report published in June 2018, there has been an increase in demand for EAP services in the past five years due to:
• Low unemployment rates and a tight labour market
• Happier workers who have had assistance in working through family or workplace issues and recognised the benefits
• Workers having an improved sense of well-being and better focus on tasks
• Increased productivity and reduced absenteeism
This demand has led to new providers entering the market and offering a service that is not always equivalent to that provided by established providers.
#1 Not All Counsellors Are Qualified Professionals
Not all counselling services are created equal. Some services use counselling staff who have no formal qualifications and often limited experience. There is no minimum education requirements or industry standards; anyone can call themselves a counsellor as it is not a regulated term.
Using unqualified counsellors allows EAP providers to keep their costs down, but at what price to the employees’ wellbeing? It can take a lot for someone to seek the assistance of a counsellor. They have the right to deal with someone that has the qualification to help them adequately.
When looking for an EAP Counselling service, companies should insist on only using qualified and registered psychologists. Whether it be phone or face to face consultations, a trained psychologist is best equipped to handle complex problems.
#2 Not all Providers Offer a 24/7 Service
Not all emergencies happen during business hours. A crisis can occur at any time of the day or night. Staff should have immediate access to a qualified therapist who can assist with any problem they may be experiencing. Quite often depressed or suicidal people will call at night or during the weekend. Their call for help must be answered by someone that can assist them straight away - in a crisis they can’t always wait until the next business day.
You should ask how quickly and easily psychologists can provide assistance to an employee in crisis (e.g. is there a convoluted system or call centers to go through before you can actually talk with a psychologist). Also ask how quickly a psychologist can be mobilised to attend the workplace should a critical incident occur.
#3 Industry Experience is Important
Many industries have specific requirements that their EAP counselling service needs to understand. If the provider has helped businesses in the same industry as yours, they are likely to understand the type of work they do and specific stressors that may come with those roles.
For example, a mining company could have higher numbers of workers dealing with relationship and divorce issues due to their fly in fly out (FIFO) work commitments. The rates of depression and suicide are also over-represented in that industry. An Edith Cowan University study of 629 FIFO workers revealed over one third (36%) suffered from depression, anxiety or stress symptoms.
The retail sector and banks need counsellors with experience in helping staff deal with stress and possibly trauma, for example, following an armed robbery or an assault. These businesses should look for providers that have experience in managing a crisis and have the available resources to handle multiple staff requiring assistance at once.
Some industries have higher rates of work-related injuries than others. Safe Work Australia has identified the agriculture, transport, manufacturing and construction industries as the most hazardous regarding fatalities and/or injuries.
These industry employees are more likely to need a combination of counselling with psychological and physical rehabilitation services to assist them in returning to work. If the one provider has experience with both, then employees receive a better standard of care, and the employer and workers’ compensation insurer only needs to deal with one service provider.
If your business is looking for an EAP service provider, look a little deeper than the brochure to make sure you find one that can meet the needs of your employees now and into the future. No one can predict what problems could occur for staff in the future, but if you have the right number of qualified personnel with the ideal experience, you will be providing the best service possible.
For more information about the EAP Counselling service PeopleSense by Altius provides call 1300 307 912 or contact us online.