An Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) is a valuable benefit – but not if its benefits and processes are not understood by those in the best positions to make referrals – your line managers and Human Resources department personnel.
At the very least, training on EAP benefits and referrals should be available for those interacting with your student or employee population on a daily basis. These include but may not be limited to:
- Line managers and supervisors
- Human Resources department
- In-house medical or health services department
- Dormitory personnel
- Student assistance office
There may be others based on your organization’s structure.
It’s vital that individuals in these areas be trained in the following:
- What the EAP is all about
- Recognizing an employee or student who may need assistance
- Eligibility of family members
- Identifying student/employee warning signs and behavior patterns
- The referral process and what happens next
- Do’s and don’ts for the referral interview
- Types of problems commonly addressed
- Voluntary EAP participation
- Dealing with crises and other difficult situations
- Where to go for more information on the EAP
- Confidentiality of the program
Confidentiality is an important component of any EAP. Employees may hesitate to contact the assistance program out of concern that it will impact their performance reviews or employment. EAP participation information is protected by Federal laws such as the Confidentiality Law and HIPAA, as well as local regulations, except in very limited circumstances for safety, or potential child or elder abuse. Your line supervisors and HR department members must understand the complete referral process, including that the employee’s or student’s privacy will not be compromised.
Here are some ideas for incorporating EAP training into your existing orientation and training programs:
- New hire/new student orientation: make sure to include an overview of the program and ways to access it. (Usually these programs contain an overwhelming amount of material, so this should not be the only opportunity to present this information.)
- New manager/supervisor/dormitory personnel training: in addition to program details and referral procedures, participants should be given something tangible like a wallet card to remind them of important telephone numbers, websites and processes.
- Staff/HR development opportunities.
- Periodic refreshers like a lunch and learn to keep EAP benefits and access top of mind.
- Other site-wide events such as health fairs.
Ready to beef up your EAP training? The first call you should make is to your EAP provider. They’re the experts, and offer training ideas that can be custom-designed for your business. Both on-site and web-based trainings are available. Be sure to ask about general EAP training, as well as single-topic offerings such as “Stress Management.”
The best representatives for your organization’s benefits are those who understand them and can assist employees in utilizing them when needed. By offering comprehensive training in your EAP, you’ll be ensuring that those who need to make referrals – your line managers and HR department – have the knowledge and tools to competently refer employees and students to your EAP.