An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a free helpline that many employers pay a specialist company to provide their employees with access to, so they can get free confidential advice on any issue causing them to be distressed or distracted.
Employers typically provide this benefit to their workers so they have somewhere to turn for practical and emotional support on any issue causing them to become distressed or distracted at home or work. The support provided can vary depending on the supplier your employer has selected, but typically includes access to emotional counselling, financial, debt, legal, childcare and eldercare information and physical and mental health information services and support.
With the measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus impacting most of us in at least one of those areas, if you’re lucky enough to have access to an EAP as part of your employee wellbeing or benefits package, here are seven reasons why you should be using it.
1. It’s confidential
Whether you decide to contact your EAP for telephone counselling, financial, legal or eldercare information, you can rest assured that nothing you say will be reported back to your employer or boss. UK EAPs are required to keep your contact with them confidential and will only share overall trend data, on things like what topics people need help with and how satisfied they were with the service.
2. Free access to counselling
Most EAPs provide confidential access to professionally accredited counsellors, that you would have to wait months to access or pay to see privately. These mental health experts can give you coping strategies to help you process difficult emotions and the mere act of sharing your problem in a safe non-judgemental setting will make you feel better.
3. Bereavement and trauma support
If you have lost a loved one due to coronavirus or are a key worker or individual that has been traumatised by events in hospital, your EAP can also provide specialist access to trauma counsellors. They can provide you with psychological support to help you to manage symptoms such as constantly replaying events in your mind, difficulty sleeping and painful flashbacks that may lead to PTSD.
4. Consumer rights and legal advice
Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives in different ways. Big events such as weddings or holidays have had to be postponed, or cancelled altogether. If you’re experiencing distress and anxiety due to being unable to get a refund, your EAP can help you to establish your consumer rights and fight the battle with you. If you have other legal concerns, such as an impending court case, divorce or custody issue, they can also give you free legal information connected to this.
5. Wellbeing support
Your EAP can also provide you with information about physical and emotional wellbeing issues. Be this concerns you might have about accessing or going into hospital for treatment at the current time or how best to address a maladaptive habit you’ve developed, such as consuming too much alcohol. In addition to providing practical support, your EAP can also provide you with specific counselling to address underlying emotional issues causing the problem.
6. Help to manage debt and finances
With many people’s livelihoods being deeply affected by coronavirus, it’s good to know that your EAP can put you in touch with financial and debt information specialists, who can help with everything from managing late payments to consolidating existing debts to protecting your finances going forward. They can also help with the impact of financial anxiety on your emotional wellbeing.
7. Childcare and eldercare support
If you are struggling with not being able to visit elderly relatives or the immense pressures associated with balancing work with looking after and home-schooling young children, your EAP can provide practical and emotional support in these areas as well. They can also help with other family challenges, such as supporting teenagers struggling with feelings or anxiety, loneliness or anger and helping older relatives to access medical treatment and care.
In summary, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is an incredibly valuable and relevant resource right now. Your employer is providing you with this benefit because they want to support you at this difficult time. Any calls to your EAP will be treated in confidence and the sooner you reach out for help, the less anxious and more supported you will feel.
To get the contact details for your EAP, visit your company’s intranet or benefits pages.