Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cover Your W-2's and 1099s

So let's see how much of an EAP purest you are.

Depending on your orientation to employee assistance programs, it makes absolute perfect sense for the EAP cover only workers who are actually paid employees, who are full time or part time, and who receive access to the employer's benefits, especially health insurance plan.

But what about this? Should an EAP be made available to any employee who works for the organization regardless of pay status--volunteer, 1099, contract, or W-2s?

Any worker who touches the company is subject to personal problems and other forms of behavioral risk. This has nothing to do with pay status. EAPs were developed first and foremost as tools to manage trouble employee behavior, primarily substance abuse. The goal was not only to salvage employees and the proverbial secretary who costs $7000 to replace, but to protect the organization against financial loss--loss of all kinds from troubled employee behavior.

It makes sense to manage any paid worker's or unpaid worker's performance with the EAP. The rationale for doing so is based on the historical reasons EAPs emerged. I know many internal EAPs--especially older programs--that do precisely this. However, I know very few external provider EAPs that do. That's because employers don't want to pay for the extra lives and they have "met the need" by offering the EAP as a benefit only to their "insureds". They forget, or have never learned, that the EAP is a productivity tool. It is not a benefit or counseling service. It's there to protect the employer as well. Many would argue this is their first and most important purpose, and that this is perfectly consistent with the well-being of employees.

The view that an EAP is a benefit has brought us to the point where behavioral risk exposures are increasing for employers. Many don't get the number of supervisor referrals they believe they should be seeing. I have read where some HR managers are taking on the counselor role with employees. Look around the mainstream HR journals and you will find articles on the subject of "putting 'humane' back into human resources." In other words, some HR writers are calling for the HR role of pre-counseling, and then referral of employees to resources in the community. (Holy mackeral! This is what EAPs do!) This phenomenon is due to the loss of the EAP message in mainstream HR literature.

There is a need for education to help make a “cross over” to another way of thinking about EAPs, one that would renew and re-establish, what EAPs can do for organizations. We then need to market the EAP as a resource for all employees and workers, not just the "insureds". The EAP field will be better off, and so will its future. Employers may then begin to pay the necessary fees to have viable EAPs that keep their tushes out of the sling and understand why EAPs are such a good thing for them, not just their employees. Increase your EAP utilization with communication materials that actually keep the need for building utilization in mind with each article written.