10 Questions to Ask Your Employee Benefits Consultant About an EAP

October 31, 2017
Mac Hobbs By Mac Hobbs

With the growing recognition of the significance of overall employee well-being, most large employers (and many smaller organizations) now see an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a core component of a workplace well-being strategy. Emotional and behavioral health are critical issues that impact both employees and employers. Stress and depression are at epidemic proportions and can impede not only an employee’s health, happiness and overall quality of life, but also productivity at work.

An effective EAP provides resources and expert case management for participants and also serves the employer on an organizational level with management level consultative support. The right partner will provide strategy and direction for the organization to optimize the EAP as a workplace solution.

In the EAP purchasing process, employers often work through a benefits consultant who designs an overall health plan offering for the organization, including elements as disparate as maternity care, dental health and vision benefits for a wide range of people. Unfortunately, the EAP can sometimes be a last minute add on that’s not fully considered or examined. Given the potential impact on the organization and employees, evaluating the EAP is a critical step in choosing the program that will deliver the services employees need to stay healthy, happy and productive. In addition, a strong EAP partner can be an effective tool to help manage the bottom line.

Here’s a list of questions you should ask your benefits consultant about a proposed EAP prior to signing on the dotted line:

1. Who answers the calls at the EAP? What is their training?

Will employees be talking to a call center employee who follows a script or a social worker who can provide in the moment support? The BHS call center is staffed by Master’s Level Clinicians – people who, by their nature, want to support and help.

2. Does the EAP provide case managers who connect with participants to ensure their issues have been addressed?

Follow-through is critical. Not only does it ensure that the EAP services are effective and appropriate, it also demonstrates the value the organization places on the employees’ overall well-being. Following up provides a personal connection that is proven to deliver positive outcomes. Ideally, the Master’s Level Clinician that initially supports the participant becomes the coordinator of care and manages his/her issue to resolution.

3. Does the EAP help employees achieve a healthy work/life balance?
A good EAP is designed to deal with everyday stress before it grows into a bigger problem that can impact both health and productivity. Daily stressors come in many forms, including relationship issues both on and off the job as well as financial or childcare issues. For example, how can the EAP help an employee going through a divorce?

4. What tools does the EAP provide your organization?

Beyond an employee resource, your EAP can offer management services to the organization. For example, BHS Assistance Programs include Performance Consultants that can help supervisors become better managers, sharpen their skills, and identify and understand risky employee behavior to best protect the company and help the employee.

5. What resources can the EAP offer to manage costs throughout the year?

Your EAP can be an early warning sign to a burgeoning issue in the workplace. At BHS, we use our data to identify trends. And, we bring creative solutions for improving the organization as a whole that can help to reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity.

6. What is the reporting process?

Will you get an annual spreadsheet or a true management review that can impact the bottom line? 

7. Can your EAP support you in times of disaster or crisis?

Every organization is susceptible to the negative impact of a crisis or disaster. Can your EAP help your employees facing a natural disaster such as a hurricane or provide a true Crisis Incident Stress Management (CISM) plan?

8. Who will be MY contacts at the EAP?
Does the EAP provide dedicated program managers that will get to know your business and serve as an ongoing partner and resource? Just like an employee has access to care coordinators, you should be able to connect with a dedicated professional who can offer immediate assistance to the organization.

9. What does the EAP cost your organization?

While “free” can be an attractive selling point, you’ll want to be careful when choosing your EAP. Oftentimes, you get what you pay for. An add-on to your healthcare plan will likely not provide the support you want to provide to your organization, especially in times of crisis. Check out this earlier BHS blog post for more on this topic.

10. Does the EAP actually provide services, or is it an “Assess and Refer” plan?

Will the EAP program actually live up to the “assistance” part of their name, and offer coaching and guidance, or will they just refer the call?

Organizations who are looking to purchase a fully functioning EAP that will truly serve as an employee and workplace solution need to set aside time for a true review of the program. Asking questions before the contract is signed can prevent problems down the road.

Have some questions of your own? Get in touch.

Mac Hobbs

By Mac Hobbs, Director, Business Development, BHS