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Mental health matters in organisations of every size

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Mental health matters in organisations of every size

Mental health is a hot topic in the news agenda at the moment and it’s an important issue that organisations of every size need to take seriously. In a recent article for Business Matters, UK EAPA Chair, Andrew Kinder, takes a look at SMEs and considers their options to minimise the impact of mental health on their business and employees.

“As an employer you’re not in a position where you can control all elements of an employee’s life, influencing what happens in and out of the workplace, for example. But there are a number of things you can change or introduce to have a positive influence on employees’ mental health. These include an individual’s workload, the type of work they’re being asked to do, the culture of the organisation and also ensuring that open and two-way communications take place wherever possible. Sometimes a temporary adjustment of work-load can make a big difference,” said Andrew Kinder.

“Ultimately you need to accept that mental health isn’t an issue that you’re going to ‘solve’ for your organisation or your employees. Many different factors can trigger a mental health issue and with one in four of us facing mental health problems at some point during our lifetime, it’s important that strong plans are put in place to support those who are suffering so that support is available and the negative impact that mental health has on your most valuable asset is minimised,” he adds.

Want to find out more? You can read the full article here.

Access the latest Employee Benefits’ buyer’s guide to EAPs

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Access the latest Employee Benefits’ buyer’s guide to EAPs

Are you reviewing your current Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offering or thinking about commissioning a programme for your organisation? There are lots of resources available to help you identify the best solution for your employees and your business.

The Employee Benefits’ ‘Buyer’s guide to employee assistance programmes‘ provides a great introduction to EAPs, the latest programme innovations and discusses return on investment.

The UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association has also published a buyer’s guide to EAPs that includes information on the type, format and remit of EAPs, helping you to better understand the different types of programmes on offer, the level of account management you should expect and an overview of the type of questions you should ask a prospective provider. .

UK EAPA’s latest research to quantify the ‘return on investment’ of EAPs

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

UK EAPA’s latest research to quantify the ‘return on investment’ of EAPs

Following the recent publication of UK EAPA’s research in partnership with the Work Foundation into the use, impact and reach of EAPs in today’s organisation, the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association’s next research project will quantify the ‘return on investment’ of employers’ investment in these programmes.

“The UK EAPA has asked The Work Foundation, alongside Professor Stephen Bevan from the Institute of Employment Studies, to assess the economic returns that employers can expect to accrue from their investment in an EAP. Based on data collected from EAP providers, we will build an ROI calculator that will enable those who are assessing the cost-effectiveness of their current workplace health interventions to better understand the value that an EAP can deliver,” said Andrew Kinder, UK EAPA’s Chair.

“Work has already begun to collect data from EAP providers to help build the ROI calculator and we are looking forward to working with the Work Foundation once again to develop an independent and objective appraisal of the economic returns of investment in an EAP,” said Paul Roberts, UK EAPA Executive Board Member and research lead.

EAPs are among the most commonly used well-being interventions in the UK with the EAPA’s Market Watch report (2013) identifying that almost 12 million employees in the UK are covered by EAP provision. Other data, for example from Employee Benefits (2013), suggests that 71 per cent of employers in the UK are making use of EAPs.

“These figures highlight that EAPs have the ‘reach’ to make a significant impact on the well-being of a large number of UK employees, saving UK businesses a considerable sum in reduced sickness absence and improved productivity.  We are looking forward to working in partnership with UK EAPA, as well as the Institute of Employment Studies, to better understand return on investment and make recommendations about how the design, implementation and targeting of EAPs can be adapted to maximise their reach and effectiveness,” said Dr. Zofia Bajorek, researcher at the Work Foundation who will lead this project.

The research is expected to be published in early May 2017. If you would like to receive the new research report on publication, please email info@eapa.org.uk to request a copy.

Latest ‘EAP Matters’ column: the magic art of mediation

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Latest ‘EAP Matters’ column: the magic art of mediation

In the latest issue of ‘Counselling at Work’, the ‘EAP Matters’ column is written by Timmy Kurtuldum, Training and Mediation Manager at CiC, a Registered Provider member of UK EAPA.

If you’re an affiliate counsellor and have every wondered if mediation is for you, this article is a great starting point as it talks about the skills required to play a part in a successful mediation.

“It’s too easy to think that mediation in a workplace context is the same as say, for example, family mediation or mediating parties going through a divorce. In these types of mediation, there is much more of a focus on the past and factors contributing to the issues being discussed. I can’t emphasise enough that this is a marked contrast to workplace mediation; where we’re purely focused on the ‘now’. There’s no need to know the details of what happened leading up to the mediation. We can work our magic with minimal information and an acceptance from all parties involved that we can move forward,” says Timmy.

You can read the full article here and find out more about BACP Workplace and the ‘Counselling at Work’ journal by going to http://bacpworkplace.org.uk/journal.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Counselling at Work, published by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.©

UK EAPA welcomes PM’s plans to do more to assist people with mental health conditions

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

UK EAPA welcomes PM’s plans to do more to assist people with mental health conditions

The Prime Minister’s announcement this week of plans to do more to help those with mental health conditions is a move welcomed by the employee assistance industry, says Andrew Kinder, Chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association. This is a bold move that underlines the importance of employers and providers working together to promote and protect the mental health of the UK’s workforce.

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are a vital element of the solution for the mental health challenges that one in four of us will have to deal with us during our lifetime, and the Government’s announcement this week emphasises the importance of a joined-up solution to deliver mental health services and support.

The role of employers in promoting and supporting good mental health has been discussed widely already by many commentators and is generally accepted as ‘a good thing’ by business. A report from the UK EAPA (2013) estimates that more than half of the UK working population has access to an EAP, signalling employers’ active interest to invest in the tools to support employees when they need support with mental health issues.

HR managers surveyed by UK EAPA also highlight the role EAPs are already playing when it comes to supporting mental health. Respondents to UK EAPA research undertaken in partnership with Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation (2016) reported that the most common use of an EAP is for depression (57%).

In the same study, around half of HR managers said an EAP had been introduced in their organisation as a way to reduce organisational sickness absence with 48% saying its role is to provide staff with support for particular issues such as debt or relationship issues which can be a catalyst to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.

The PM’s ‘call to action’ this week is a stark reminder that we need to do even more to raise employees’ awareness and take-up of these vital services.

For employers, sickness absence and declining productivity relating to the impact of mental health issues means that organisations need to reply on tried and trusted systems, such as EAPs, that can work in conjunction with HR, OH and other wellbeing specialists.

EAPs have been repeatedly proven to help people identify and cope with the personal or work-related issues that are at the root of their mental health distress and as such can help to reduce sickness absence, improve mental wellbeing and ultimately contribute to the bottom line in terms of organisational productivity.

Yet low-level promotion of EAPs and the scope of services available is thought to be restricting their use for anything other than crises and situations that have already reached a serious stage, which ultimately limits their full value and the effectiveness of the service to the individual and the organisation.

To address this, communication and raising awareness of EAP availability are key, and it seems that organisations agree action needs to be taken. Managers questioned by UK EAPA (2016) say there should be more regular and proactive promotion of the EAP and more prominence in team meetings, not solely through one-off staff inductions, reactively in return-to-work letters or via posters.

EAPs can also help alleviate some of the mental health burden from the NHS, particularly whilst steps are being taken to improve funding for public mental health services.

EAPs are quicker at delivering support for mild to moderate mental health problems and are able to provide the full treatment for many mental health issues, offering a high quality provision that matches and sometimes exceeds that which would be offered via NHS channels. Research undertaken by UK EAPA (2012) in partnership with CORE-IMS indicated the success of EAPs when it comes to engaging with clients and offering speedy interventions – 9 out of 10 EAP clients were accepted for treatment in just nine days of referral which minimises the time employees are required to wait for professional counselling support.

EAPs are also seeing and supporting clinical patients and as such taking some of the pressure off the NHS.  88% of clients presenting to their EAP scored above the clinical cut-off level, highlighting their similarities to NHS outpatients.

A joined-up approach from the HR, employee assistance, occupational health and wellbeing industries to help promote and protect the mental health of the UK’s workforce is something that we need to work towards. It’s only by working together that we can tackle the stigma of mental health, both in society and in the workplace.

Support employees to avoid the temptation to ‘catastrophise’ Brexit

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Support employees to avoid the temptation to ‘catastrophise’ Brexit

In the latest issue of theHRDIRECTOR, UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association Chair, Andrew Kinder, discusses the importance of supporting employees as we embark on the challenging and unfamiliar road to Brexit.

He says: “Without support there is the potential for employees to ‘catastrophise’ Brexit, where they start to think negatively about the impact and future, almost before the full picture has been revealed. Here, they will respond emotionally and negatively until their outlook only see catastrophe, rather than opportunity. To prevent this ‘awfulisatin’ of events, Brexit should instead be positioned as an opportunity to build resilience among employees and within organisations.”

Andrew Kinder goes on to emphasise: “What matters is that the organisation’s leaders and its employees don’t fall into negative cycles of thinking, expecting the worst, making rash decisions, causing or exacerbating problems which act a as justification of the negativity. We should be mindful that the workplace is uniquely placed to provide some of the support and reassurance that people need at this time, through the provision of employee support and counselling, to give a space for employees to express what can’t be expressed elsewhere.”

The January 2017 issue of theHRDIRECTOR is out now. Read more at www.thehrdirector.com.

New blog: Virtual therapists and predictive mental health apps – the future of the EAP?

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Virtual therapists and predictive mental health apps – the future of the EAP?

All the forces of modern work appear to be pushing for a freewheeling workforce: more mobile and individuals working remotely; the rise of the gig economy; the dominance of digital technology, says Andrew Kinder, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

Despite the headlines, The Work Foundation is clear in its new campaign for ‘Good Work’ that, in this context, employers in future will increasingly be reliant on motivating a core group of employees, offering them security and wellbeing in return for loyalty and a willingness to develop and adapt. Productivity and competitiveness will be dependent on it.

In its new report into the role of the Employee Assistance Programme in workplaces, The Work Foundation has highlighted the missed opportunity for employers to integrate the EAP into a platform for ‘good work’, a wider culture of wellbeing, coaching and performance improvement.

With the future potential of the service in mind, we asked our members what they saw as being the future of the EAP as it evolves, and what’s needed to both meet the challenges presented by different groups of employees and their experiences.

Technology, inevitably, is expected to be the key to tailoring and provide more access for employees as part of busy lives.

“People are now less tied to the office, and the standard 9-5 working day is becoming less common. We expect technology will continue to play a bigger role which is why we’ve invested heavily in this area,” says Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa UK. “Staying close to the changing way employees behave and engage with work is vital to ensuring EAP provision remains effective.”

“Balancing the demands of different groups of users will also present challenges to providers, with younger employees preferring ready access on the move through smartphones and older ones preferring more traditional telephone and face to face services,” says Eugene Farrell, head of trauma support services, AXA PPP healthcare. “The emergence of apps that identify or predict changing mental health states could lead to automated outreach to people with the earliest signs of difficulty or flare-ups, taking preventive service provision to another level. Virtual reality environments may also have significant impact in how users interact with services both in a traditional sense as well as in the development of virtual therapists and mental health coaches.”

For Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh), employers will be looking for more professional support, in whatever form it needs to take, in dealing with the increasing complexity of modern life in itself.

“If EAPs are to survive and thrive they must adapt to and understand the changing demographics and challenges of a modern and dynamic workforce. Young people working zero hour contracts and multiple jobs, the so-called sandwich generation working to support the generation below and care for the generation above and the older generation working longer and past retirement, with financial worries and debt increasingly becoming the common factor across all the generations.

“In any one year 1 in 4 people will experience anxiety or depression and by 2020 the World Health Organisation predicts depression will have reached epidemic proportions. Bad work, working environments are related to poor mental wellbeing and good work, working environments promote good mental health. Mental health and wellbeing therefore, is everyone’s business and EAP’s have a tremendous opportunity and increasingly central role to play, providing pragmatic workplace solutions to the pressures and challenges of modern life.”

Most importantly, according to EAP providers, is the essential future positioning of the EAP as part of a wider and holistic wellbeing culture and strategy for employers to see the benefits.

Jonathan Brown, RetailTRUST, Director of People and Wellbeing Services, points to how embracing digital technology to deliver services will require a different set of relationships: “It’s only possible when organisations move wellbeing from being a tick in the box exercise.”

Patrick Watt agrees: “The new Work Foundation report should serve as a challenge to the EAP market to develop products that address stigma, increase awareness and engagement and are integrated as part of an organisation’s health and wellbeing programme.”

Five ways to improve awareness and impact of an EAP – the latest EAPA blog!

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Five ways to improve awareness and impact of an EAP

Andrew Kinder, Chair, UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association

In a new report from The Work Foundation into how employers are using EAPs, HR managers pointed to an ongoing stigma associated with the EAP. More often than not it’s seen as a counselling service, particularly for staff with mental health issues, putting a lid on the EAP for wider use.

It’s a situation not helped by what the HR managers in the report acknowledge as being low-level promotion of EAPs and a reliance on line managers referring their team members to use the EAP. The reality is that EAPs aren’t only for crises, but have the potential to make an even greater impact on workplaces and employees by supporting wellbeing and resilience in our new world of work in general, coaching people to feel better able to cope, to be happier and more productive.

It shouldn’t only be about the negatives, says Rachel Smith, Consultant at Enlighten: “EAP’s can help with positive life events such as moving home, starting a family, or preparing for retirement. It’s also a source of advice for everyday challenges like tobacco cessation, healthier lifestyles and relaxation techniques.”

Here are five areas for making more of the EAP in your organisation.

1. Re-position for prevention

Eugene Farrell, head of trauma support services, AXA PPP Healthcare says: “EAPs play as much a part in preventing crises as they do in supporting employees when one occurs. By providing information and support early on, EAPs can help employees to deal more effectively with the pressures they are dealing with and help to prevent what could be a manageable issue or situation from spiralling out of control.”

“Comprehensive delivery should concentrate on a mixture of both short term and long term health and wellbeing goals in order to react to instances of crisis, and also offer preventative measures developing the overall health and wellbeing of the wider employee community by challenging and improving the working culture as a whole,” adds David Price, Group Director, Health Assured.

2. Create more champions among line managers

Jonathan Brown, RetailTRUST Director of People and Wellbeing Services points to the importance of support from the board, highlighting the importance of the EAP as part of an overall wellbeing strategy integrated into the organisation’s culture and business plans, with KPIs and progress reported at the highest levels.

Eugene Farrell suggests: “Line managers are key to successful service promotion and, arguably the most powerful endorsement is by word of mouth from users who have had a positive experience. By taking a holistic approach to continuing to promote them. Creating a positive look and feel for what’s on offer will help to overcome people’s reluctance to use it and in turn increase uptake. Referrals from line managers can also increase utilisation – especially when combined with mental health awareness training.

3. Be clear in the use of language and branding

Diane Hope, Head of Wellbeing at Work Services at Insight Healthcare, argues that employees can be put off by the EAP title, the association with counselling and mental health, and the idea of a ‘programme’ in particular. “EAPs are also very much seen as a ‘counselling service’ by lots of organisations – so employees sometimes miss out on other services like legal advice,” she says.

But what if employers brand the EAP as a more familiar in-house service? More problems says Rachel Smith, Consultant at Enlighten: “Usage can drop significantly as employees think the helpline is connected internally to their organisation and no longer confidential.”

“Before you go to market it is important to know what you are selling,” says Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health (Niamh). “Equally as a customer if you have no awareness or idea what you are buying then buy in becomes problematic. In advance or as part of re-branding, it is essential therefore, to tease out and define the essential core defining elements, aims and objectives of an EAP, distinguishing between the various models. This will go some way to ensure the EAP becomes embedded in, valued by and is seen to complement existing workplace engagement and wellbeing initiatives that meet the needs of a particular employer and its workforce.”

4. Tailor to meet specific needs

“Too often EAPs are thought of as a ‘cure all’ remedy. This can particularly be seen following some of the employee court cases where employers thought that by having an EAP they would be protected against employee litigation,” argues Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa UK.

“As a consequence, the product has been commoditised and providers have not invested in developing the service. We know it’s essential that clients tune into the needs of their business and engage with their people. There’s a clear need for providers to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and stay focussed on innovation, following the way in which employees interact with each other and their work.”

Diane Hope adds: “The most successful EAPs are those where the organisation works in partnership with the provider to promote and develop the service, which needs to be ongoing throughout the duration of the contract. This does require some investment in terms of time and resources from the purchasing organisation.”

5. Integrate into the wider health strategy

Few organisations currently make full use of insights from the EAP – the opportunity to use data to develop and refine their employee wellbeing strategies.

“EAPs are an important component of any health strategy but they need to be properly linked to other services such as occupational health and health & safety teams,” says Lisa Allan, CEO, OH Assist & Help Employee Assistance.

“Some organisations have employee wellbeing or engagement teams which makes the work of integration more straight forward. For other companies, ensuring that the different suppliers work together is an important aim so that they contribute effectively to improve the health of the organisation.”

Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh), says: “The benefits from an EAP are to a greater or lesser degree dependent on the extent to which the EAP becomes embedded in, and is intrinsic to, a general culture of wellbeing, enabling easy access to timely and tiered workplace solutions which understand and are tailored to meet the needs of a particular workforce. This relies on good account management, building customer relations and above all else getting to know the nuances and complexities of each business.”

To request your copy of The evolution of employee assistance: investigating the use, impact and reach of EAPs in today’s organisations email info@eapa.org.uk.

Latest EAPA blog: Creating a national map of psychological wellbeing at work

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Creating a national map of psychological wellbeing at work

We know the ratcheting up of pressures in modern life – faster, digitally-enhanced lifestyles combined with austerity and the particular woes of the squeezed middle – means all employees face unprecedented demands and anxieties. We also know that more organisations are using Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to provide important support services, and use of services like counselling is rising.

But as an industry, what we mostly see are only confused reports from the frontline of the war on stress, crises and long-term absence among employees. We only have piecemeal insights that don’t set out with any accuracy what the issues really are nationally and in different sectors and age groups, how they’re changing over time, and most importantly how different employer interventions are helping and what else EAP providers can do.

In a new report commissioned by the UK EAPA from The Work Foundation, researchers found that just 9% of HR manager respondents in the research had attempted to evaluate their EAP in terms of a cost utility benefit or return on investment via the impact on sickness absence, productivity, performance or engagement. 31% admitted there had been no attempt to evaluate the quality or impact of the EAP (9% didn’t know whether there was any evaluation). More detail from the report, which can be requested by emailing info@eapa.org.uk.

A national map of psychological wellbeing in the UK workplace would help employers, wellbeing support providers – and Government – in better understanding and managing the complex issues involved.

As David Price, Group Director at Health Assured, points out, there is a model in the insurance industry: “Claims information is openly available across the insurance sector. Sharing usage data from EAPs would be a brilliant tool to compare information across the marketplace, including both industry averages of utilisation statistics as well as the rise and fall of ‘hot topic’ areas. For example, as a society, one in four people experience mental health issues and suicide is the largest cause of death in men under the age of 45. It would be ideal to see how as a sector we are able to combat these issues together and the impact we could make collectively.”

Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh) points to the additional value of creating a standard for benchmarking: “If EAPs are to be considered as a viable and cost effective business solution then we must be able to measure and demonstrate effectiveness in quantifiable business terms. Only then is it possible to quality assure, compare and benchmark outcomes across various EAP models, industries, geographical location, referral characteristics as well as other important variables. This means moving away from the misconceived belief that only the measurable is important to making the important measurable and meaningful.”

No-one would argue that reaching a standard measure for use of services and Return on Investment figures will be easy.

EAP providers deliver services in many different ways and this can be confusing for buyers, says Eugene Farrell, head of trauma support services, AXA PPP healthcare. “With such significant variation, a single ROI measure is going to be very difficult to achieve. However, that should not stop providers from measuring clinical outcomes and demonstrating to their clients the value that their EAP can bring. While it may not be practicable to introduce a standard measure, greater clarity and transparency of measurement of utilisation would be welcome.”

What’s needed at this stage is debate and discussion with HR that can provide the necessary impetus. This kind of national mapping, benchmarking would be powerful for HR in terms of the Holy Grail of demonstrating ROI on support services provided to employees and the importance of wellbeing in general – a real platform for proving impact on productivity and performance, and making sure organisations are getting value. Shouldn’t we start talking about defining terms on usage of services and key measurements?

December Branch Meeting: Data Protection… asset or liability?

Written by Liz Guilford on . Posted in News

Data Protection: Asset or Liability?

Personal information is a key asset. Expectations are higher than ever that organisations will take appropriate measures to address data protection risk. At the same time, personal information must be used efficiently to deliver effective services, raise funds and protect individuals.

The current law is over 20 years old and often struggles to cope with recent technological changes – such as privacy and big data; cloud services; mobile working; anonymisation and online marketing. With the government confirming on 31st October 2016 that the UK will be implementing the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, it is more important than ever to start preparing for it now.

The guest speaker at the UK EAPA’s December Branch Meeting on 7 December 2016 will look at the proposed EU Data Protection Directive, which has particular sensitivities in the context of vulnerable people. How will it differ from the current law? What could it mean for anyone who handles personal information?

Gary Shipsey is co-founder and Managing Director of Protecture and has 10 years of practical experience turning information law into practice, through a variety of information management roles in local government and at the Audit Commission. He has advised hundreds of schools, charities and care settings.

To confirm your attendance at the Branch Meeting, please download this form and return it by email to info@eapa.org.uk.

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