Workplace PREVENTION RESEARCH

Employee Assistance Programs: Fact Sheet

Definition

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a worksite-based program designed to assist in the identification and resolution of productivity problems associated with employees impaired by personal concerns, including, but not limited to, health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, stress, or other personal concerns that may adversely affect employee job performance.  (1)

An effective EAP should include:

Expert consultation for employees and managers;
Training in helping to resolve behavioral, health, or job performance problems;
Confidential, appropriate, and timely problem assessment services;
Referrals for diagnosis, treatment, and other assistance;
Establishment of referral links between the worksite and community services;
Follow-up services;
Education and information designed to prevent alcohol and other drug problems;
Consultation about environmental change that could prevent or minimize employee problems; and coordinated statements concerning alcohol and other drug use and related sanctions.  (2)

National Association

The EAP Association (EAPA), founded in 1971, is the largest, oldest, and most respected professional association for persons in the employee assistance program field. EAPA represents more than 7,000 individuals and organizations around the globe with an interest in employee assistance.  (1)

Descriptive Facts

33% of all nonpublic work sites have assistance programs, serving more than 55% of all employees in U.S. work sites with 50 or more employees in 1993.   (3)

In 1991, a national survey indicated that 45% of full-time employees had access to an EAP provided by their employer.   (2)

Worksite size is related to the prevalence of EAP programs; 21% of the smallest firms (50-99 employees) have an EAP, and 76% of the largest firms (1,000+ employees) have an EAP.   (2)

The prevalence of EAPs is highest in communications, utilities, and transportation, at about 52%, whereas mining, construction, and service industries have the lowest prevalence, at about 25%. The higher rate among the former may be due to Federal regulations for drug testing and education.  (2)

There are two kinds of EAPs.  An internal EAP is an in-house service, staffed by company employees. An external EAP is a specialty service provider hired by the employer.  Internal EAPs tend to be more costly than external EAPs, but are sometimes preferred by employers because services can be more precisely tailored to the employers' needs.  (2)

A survey of Workplace drug abuse programs found that about 47% were internal and 40% were externally contracted services.  (4)

The median annual EAP cost per eligible employee, which varied by region of the country, was $21.83 for internal programs and $18.09 for external programs in a select sample study.  (5)

Marijuana and cocaine were the drugs most often reported as utilized by EAP clients.  (4)

A 1994 report described anecdotal evidence of the savings from EAPs:

  a $7,750 saving per employee at Warner Corporation because of lower recruitment and training costs, lower workers' compensation costs, and fewer on-the-job accidents;
  a 75% reduction in inpatient substance abuse treatment costs after EAP implementation at Gillette Company;
  a reduction in on-the-job accidents and lost time as a result of such accidents at Tropicana; and
  a reduction in absenteeism and workers' compensation insurance costs at Sawyer Gas Company and at Oregon Steel Mills.  (6)

 

Cost-effectiveness data on EAPs generally indicate a savings to investment ratio ranging from 1.5:1 to 15:1. A study of the McDonnell Douglas EAP estimated savings of $5.1 million, due to fewer days missed from work, lower turnover, and lower medical claims of employees, spouses, and dependents.  (2)

It was found that drug abuse cases make up an estimated 10% of all EAP cases, with cocaine being the most prevalent substance of abuse, followed by marijuana. In contrast, alcohol cases make up about 20% of the reporting EAPs' caseloads.  (7)

The EAP drug abuse caseload is greater in companies that are stable in the size of their labor force; are economically stable or profitable; are unionized; have a drug screening policy and program; believe they have a major problem with drug abuse; refer drug cases to the EAP; and publicize the EAP, encouraging self-referrals for substance abuse problems.  (7)

Improvement of supervisor training is positively associated with the proportion of drug abuse cases in the EAP caseload, and it is negatively associated with the number of EAP staff.  (7)

References

1. Employee Assistance Professionals Association (http://www.eap-association.com). October 1998.

2. Blum, T.C.; and Roman, P.M. (1995).  Cost-effectiveness and preventive implications of Employee Assistance Programs. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Publication RP0907.

3. Steele, P.D. (1995).  Worker assistance programs and labor process: Emergence and development of the Employee Assistance Model. The Journal of Drug Issues 25(2):423-450.

4. Backer, T. (1991). Drug abuse services and EAPs: Preliminary report on a national study. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Abuse, Drug Abuse Services Research Series No. 1: Background Papers on Drug Abuse Financing and Services Research.  Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 227-244.

5. Hartwell, T.D.; Steele, P.; French, M.T.; Porter, F.J.; Rodman, N.F.; and Zarkin, G.A. (1996). Aiding troubled employees: The prevalence, cost, and characteristics of Employee Assistance Programs in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 86(6):804-808.

6. Marsh and McLennan Companies. (1994). The economics of Drug-Free Workplace programs, N.P.

7. Roman, P.M. (1991).   The use of EAPs in dealing with drug abuse in the Workplace. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Abuse, Drug Abuse Services Research Series No. 1: Background Papers on Drug Abuse Financing and Services Research.  Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 271-286.

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