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What is an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) & How Does It Work?



An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential workplace service that employers pay for. An EAP helps employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and even drug or legal concerns. It is often available to both employees and their families to help workers remain productive at work.


An EAP helps employers because it makes for happier employees. Employees have a confidential place to go with their personal problems. It also helps employees deal with stressors — from drug abuse to legal problems — so they don’t carry over into the workplace.


To offer an employee benefit like an EAP program, consider signing up for a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). ADP TotalSource is a PEO that offers HR administration, talent management, employee benefits, payroll, and regulatory compliance, all in one package. Click on the button below for a free quote.


How Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) Work


An EAP provides outside counselors, resources, and referrals to assist employees and their family members. Any employee assistance benefits received by employees or family members remain confidential. So while the employer pays for the service, they have no insight into an employee’s specific use of the service.


Normally, what happens when you offer an EAP is that an employee under stress can call a phone number to get immediate help from a professional counselor on topics like:


  • Workplace personality conflicts – advice and suggestions on how to work with a difficult manager or co-workers.

  • Drug addiction – advice on how to deal with the employee’s addiction, or how to deal with a family member’s addiction, including teen drug use prevention.

  • Mental health issues – depression, anxiety, anger management or other needs an employee or their family members may be dealing with.

  • Health and caregiving issues – how best to manage return to work issues after a worker’s comp claim, or how to manage a disability or medical issue at work, or how to obtain help for an ill or elderly loved one.

  • Legal and family advice – marriage counseling, divorce, or child custody issues.

  • Financial counseling – how to avoid bankruptcy, or how to pay down credit card debt, or create a budget.

  • Grief assistance – Support for employees who have lost a loved one as well as for employees experiencing the loss of a co-worker, or a significant event such as a shooting at work.


Most EAPs provide a set number of counselling referral sessions, from 1-3, at no cost to the employee to fully assess the issue before recommending a resource, therapist, or service to the employee. The EAP does not do long-term counseling, but can help the employee get the ball rolling.

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Scott Berry & Associates, 2019. Designed by Justin Light.

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