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24 Jun 2022
by Dawn Lewis

REBA Inside Track: Is your EAP delivering for your workforce?

Employee assistance programmes enjoyed a renaissance during the pandemic, so why are so many employers reviewing them?

REBA Inside Track: Is your EAP delivering for your workforce? main.jpg


During the pandemic, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) enjoyed a renaissance. But now the dust has settled, an increasing number of employers have told REBA that they are reviewing their EAP to ensure it is delivering what they need.

There is a mix of views about how well EAPs are performing for organisations. Some feel that the services provided by their EAP have not returned to what they were pre-pandemic – specifically that counselling sessions are being held virtually, with few face-to-face options. For others, costs have increased due to higher levels of use, which is positive, but also means budgets need to be reviewed. 

Some employers have changed how they use their EAPs, switching towards them being a triage service to help signpost employees to the most effective source of support, while others are experiencing low take-up of the benefit and aren’t sure that their EAP is effective at all.

With so many varying experiences and approaches to using EAPs, it is perhaps unsurprising that many employers are reviewing them. The EAP has moved from a low-cost, little-used, tick box add-on to a benefit that employers want more from. 

An EAP is perhaps one of, if not the, most universal benefit (other than a pension) offered by employers. Our forthcoming Employee Wellbeing Research 2022 shows that 96% of employers provide an EAP, whether as a standalone benefit, or as part of a broader health insurance or group risk benefit offering.

Yet, the pandemic has shifted how employers view their wellbeing benefits. There is now an increasing focus on the strategic value of wellbeing benefits and what they deliver for organisations. 

As a result, many employers are reviewing their requirements, looking at how their other benefits fit with their EAP, questioning whether it aligns with their organisational values and probing whether their current provision provides employees with the support they need. This is backed up by our recent Benefits Design Research, which showed that 61% of employers are looking to conduct a large-scale review, with 60% intending to introduce new benefits technology and 46% planning to increase benefits spend per employee.

So what do employers want from their EAP? Here are just a handful of things that employers have told us are important to them: 

  • choice for employees in how services, particularly counselling, are accessed, be it virtually or face-to-face
  • access for dependents and family members, including access to counselling sessions
  • clear analytics and data to help inform future benefits strategy and design
  • a global offering that provides consistency in approach as well as local content.

None of these requirements are exclusive to EAPs. In fact, as our Benefits Design Research showed, the desire for personalised, family friendly benefits that offer strategic data insights are fairly universal needs. It is up to providers to demonstrate that they are offering these sought-after services and can align with an organisation’s broader values.

Indeed, next week during the Employee Wellbeing Congress we will be looking at the future of wellbeing as employers adapt their cultures to be more human-centric and appealing to talent, in order to compete. With the world of work changing, reward, benefits and wellbeing strategies need to be reimagined to have an ever-greater role in organisational values.

What are you doing with your EAP? We’d love to hear from you.