Employee assistance program (EAP) refers to a service provided by employers that is designed to help their employees deal with the personal or work-related problems. The service provides counseling and assistance with regard to mental health issues, marital problems, substance abuse or financial troubles.
The role of EAP counselors is to assess the problem and provide necessary support to the employees with the goal of restoring their work performance to a higher level and keeping them on the job. The employer pays for the variety of services provided by EAPs in advance, making them free for employees and their household members. If a company cannot provide a specific service that is necessary to solve a problem, such as financial advising or child care, it makes use of contracted employees and third-party companies that specialize in managing EAPs.
EAP counselors work in tandem with managers and supervisors by helping the latter prepare for the challenges and needs in the workplace. This is accomplished by preparing the organization to prevent the issues from popping up and training the staff on how to cope with problems such as violence or traumatic experiences.
EAPs benefit the workers and the employers by increasing productivity, reducing the amount of time spent away from work and lowering medical costs. However, they are criticized in cases where third-party companies are in charge of identifying the problems and providing support services because said companies seek to save money at the expense of effective care.