The development and characteristics of Employee Assistance Programs around the globe

April 2019
Roche, A., Kostadinov, V., Cameron, J., Pidd, K., McEntee, A., & Duraisingam, V. (2018). The development and characteristics of Employee Assistance Programs around the globe. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 33(3-4), 168-186. doi:10.1080/15555240.2018.1539642

Contemporary Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) serve a dual purpose: 1) to assist employers improve productivity; and 2) to identify and address workers’ concerns about a range of issues e.g., AOD use, health, relationships and stress potentially impacting their job performance.

While EAPs have been utilised in various countries around the world, there has been limited research examining variations in the implementation and development of EAPs across countries.

To address this research gap, NCETA undertook one of the first studies of its type to examine the characteristics and development of EAPs in different countries. This involved conducting an online survey of 74 EAP professionals from 25 countries (including Australia, and countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America) which aimed to:

  1. Identify drivers of EAP development and implementation
  2. Provide an overview of the characteristics of EAPs in different regions.

NCETA found that:

  • Respondents considered EAPs to be either very effective, moderately effective or effective in some cases in improving worker and workplace wellbeing. None of the respondents indicated that EAPs were not effective
  • Key drivers in the development and implementation of EAPs were consumer (i.e., individual workers and organisations) demand and industry-based programs and initiatives
  • The characteristics of EAPs have changed over time and across regions, highlighted by a move away from internal service provision toward more holistic models of care that increasingly incorporate web-based service provision
  • EAPs were typically delivered by private “for-profit” organisations and provided services that mainly comprised relationship, mental health, and trauma counselling delivered over four to five sessions through various delivery modes (e.g., face-to-face, Internet, telephone).

In addition, the study identified that there were no consistent or universally applied standards or qualifications required for EAP service providers and that there were inconsistent licensing and regulatory requirements across countries and regions. This has major implications for the delivery of EAP services as the quality, professionalism, and expertise of EAP staff and services may vary widely between different countries, regions, and even companies providing those services.

Future challenges for the EAP sector include the application of professional standards and quality control measures, the increased commercialisation of healthcare services, and keeping up-to-date with technology-driven enhancements.