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Information of interest to our Clients and for the industry

Are employers legally required to offer Employee Assistance Programs?

Workplace Health and Safety legislation in Australia requires employers to provide a safe work environment that protects worker’s physical and mental health. While employers are not legally required to offer Employee Assistance Programs, they do have a legal responsibility to provide a psychologically safe workplace, and a duty of care and ethical responsibility to positively promote mental health. And there is an abundance of evidence proving that EAPs are an effective mental health tool for employees and employers alike. So why wouldn’t you provide this service to your staff?

An EAP is a confidential counselling service offered to employees and their families, who are seeking assistance with work stressors or conflicts, relationship issues, financial concerns, anxiety or any other issue, which has the potential to affect wellbeing.

With one in five employees in Australia suffering from poor mental health, the combined cost of absenteeism, presenteeism and psychological workers compensation claims, cost Australian businesses close to $11 billion annually.  So whatever the initial cause of the problem, employers need to recognise and respond to psychological risk factors, and put in place effective measures to minimise physiological harm and promote positive mental health.

EAPs can assist employees:

  • Learn how to deal with issues and receive coping strategies to manage these issues before they become a bigger problem
  • Get immediate access to help when stressors build up and escalate, resulting in a potentially critical incident
  • Assist employees feel supported by their employer and understand that their mental health and wellbeing is important
  • Provide assistance to those who may not be able to afford it
  • Improve productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism, by managing their issues in a proactive way
  • Stay at work or return to work sooner than if they had no help

EAPs can assist employers:

  • Provide a positive impact on business profits with better productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism – a Pricewaterhouse Coopers study showed that for every $1 spent on mental health initiatives, they receive a return on investment of $2.30 (more for gas, electricity, water, residential, commercial, construction and waste service industries)
  • To take a proactive role in promoting WHS practices, reducing risk and achieving a healthier work environment
  • To meet WHS obligations by protecting workers against harm to their mental health
  • Improve staff retention with happier, healthier employees who feel valued within their work community

For many Australian businesses an Employee Assistance Program is already an integral part of their mental health and WHS strategy. But for those who haven’t yet adopted this approach, it’s important to understand that pressures at home and pressures at work go hand in hand, and affect all areas of our lives without proper intervention.  For the best chance at creating a positive mental health environment at work, contact Work Options to discuss how our Employee Assistance Program can assist you.

Related reading:
An Employee Assistance Program Story
When stress in the workplace becomes a bigger issue
The role of an EAP in improving staff performance

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