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What is an Employee Assistance Program?

Many employers provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that can help employees find treatment for addictions

Life events can negatively impact employees’ work in Anchorage. Employers that recognize this have set up systems to help make services available so that employees can be their best healthy, productive selves. These programs are called Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an EAP is an assistance and support service that is confidential, for each individual. The program is “designed to help employees cope with personal problems negatively affecting their lives, behavior and/or performance.” This may be for any number of types of issues including the following:

  • Alcoholism
  • Family disintegration
  • Financial or legal difficulties
  • Marital problems
  • Dealing with grief
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Substance abuse

Why Do Companies Want to Provide This Help?

According to a recent survey, 84 percent of employers report believing they have a high responsibility to provide a working environment that promotes mental well being. That same survey found that employee performance is the main reason given by employers as to the why they address work-related stress and employees’ poor mental wel -being.

Employers may provide the EAP because they are compassionate but also they know that employees who are less productive because they are not getting help can cost the company more money in the long run.  It is crucial for companies to address these issues, with nearly one in five people experiencing a diagnosable mental health problem in the last year, and many other people at risk, Amy Morin writes in Psychology Today.

Walter Stewart expands on this in Psychology Today: “Compared with other common chronic afflictions such as migraine
headaches or allergies, depression is particularly costly to employers
because episodes last from two to eight weeks or longer.” He adds that “People with depression are often able to get to work, but fatigue,
irritability, loss of concentration and trouble relating to people can make it difficult for them to work well.”

“An estimated 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse,” according to the Center for Prevention and Health Services. That is a lot of production lost. Companies in Anchorage that recognize the value of helping employees through these difficult times are seeing improvement in production and satisfaction.

An example of a large employer with a long-standing state policy to promote and maintain an alcohol and drug-free workplace is Alaska. Steps include ensuring state employees, “have access to information about the dangers of alcohol and drug use, providing employee treatment, counseling and referral services through participating Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) … [and] implementing lawful mandatory drug and alcohol testing.”

More Awareness Needed

However, studies also have indicated that employers vary in their responses to employees with substance use issues. Not all companies understand the benefits or realize that EAPs can be a valuable resource for obtaining help for workers The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) gathers information about substance use, and recent findings suggest that the percentage of full-time workers who worked for employers who provided substance-use-related policies and programs has increased slightly. However, “workers aged 18 to 25 were less likely to be aware of the EAP at their workplace than older workers, even though [this age group has] higher substance use rates than older adults.” The report shows that more policies and programs are needed, but they must be communicated to the employees so they will be aware of them.

More People Need Treatment

More than 23 million Americans are in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). A few years ago, an estimated 22.7 million Americans were in need of treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol, “yet only about 2.5 million people received treatment at a specialty facility.” With numbers like these, it is even more important for employees to seek out and utilize these services offered by their employers and for employers that don’t already to consider implementing an EAP.

Laws That Protect You

It can be a difficult decision to enter rehab for many reasons, but one may be that you are worried about losing your job. If your employer has 50 employees or more, it is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides that an employee can get up to 12 weeks of leave (either paid or unpaid) every 12 months in order to handle a serious health condition that prohibits him from working. Most often thought of for parents with new babies or illnesses of family members, the FMLA also applies to the “employee’s own serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing the essential job duties.” This may include entering rehab, as long as there are no independent reasons for firing the individual (such as poor performance due to active addiction or alcoholism).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity to jobs for qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA provides limited protection from discrimination for recovering drug abusers and for alcoholics although the act notes that an, “individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs is not an ‘individual with a disability’ when the employer acts on the basis of such use.”

How to Find Help

To find out if your employer in Anchorage offers an EAP, ask the human resources department, your supervisor or consult the company’s employee benefits manual. The benefits of EAPS vary from employer to employer but can include the following:

  • Confidential counseling
  • Assessment, treatment and
  • Referral services

If you would like more information about EAPs, call our admissions coordinators, who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at our toll-free helpline. Please call today.