Recently, I opened up my “Google Alerts” and saw a story about Federal benefits being extended to same-sex domestic partners.  I was immediately excited to see the President of the United States opening up benefits beyond traditional family members – and that an employee assistance program (EAP) was included.

Although I’m delighted by this decision, it occurs to me that this expanded definition of “family members,” when limited to “covered beneficiaries” as it is with many EAPs, is not really maximizing the full benefit of an EAP.    

At Perspectives, a stand-alone EAP company, we believe that EAPs should be provided to covered beneficiaries as well as those who may not be covered by health insurance. This includes adult children, parents, siblings, significant others (whether of the same or opposite sex,) etc. This more expansive definition of “family” for EAP is based on the premise that anyone close to the employee can affect their life and therefore their work performance.

Unfortunately, EAPs offered for “free” or at a nominal fee through group health insurance often limit access to those covered by the health plan.  That’s where the type of EAP an organization offers really delivers different results – high touch EAPs provide better services to more people.  And, in order to do this effectively, it can’t be free.  With EAP services, the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is very true.

High touch EAPs provide significant value as a workplace tool.  EAP translates into dollars saved in terms of accident prevention, less absenteeism, lower health care costs to name a few.  In fact, EAP provides preventative and rehabilitative services that enable employees to be more engaged and therefore more able to contribute to the overall productivity and profit of any organization.

In order to be most effective, however, EAP must be accessible and available to anyone who may have an effect on the employee. 

If, as an employee, you are worried about a teenager, an elderly parent or a 50 year old sister who lives 800 miles away, it affects your performance.  This is where EAP can be extremely helpful; by providing resources to your sister or assistance in dealing with care logistics. The EAP can also help you – and her – deal with the personal stress.

Isn’t it logical that the more access you and your “family” have to help, and the more help you receive, the more likely you are to be able to continue contributing by effectively performing your job?

So, thank you Mr. President for recognizing the importance of EAP and the need to provide these services to a broader array of individuals who may have an impact upon those employees. 

I do believe that if you are truly concerned about getting this economy back on track, then encouraging the use of high touch, quality EAPs as a tool for keeping employees engaged and developing a loyal workforce should be a key component of your strategy.  What’s even more compelling is that this service can appeal to everyone because it won’t cost the government anything.

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