History of EAPs
It is believed that RM Macy and Co, followed by Northern State Power, established the first support programmes for employees in the USA in 1917. In the early 1940s, as employer concerns about alcoholism amongst white-collar workers increased, programmes to treat mental, emotional and financial problems caused by alcohol and drug use – ‘Occupational Alcohol Programs’ – evolved. And during the Second World War, with women occupying an increasing proportion of the workforce in the US, programmes evolved to offer a range of more general occupational support.
In 1970 the US government formed the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Its role was to support the treatment of alcohol abuse and the Institute offered state grants to develop programmes. This is regarded as the origin of today’s EAP service template and in 1971 the NIAAA formed the ALMACCA (Association of Labor and Management Consultants and Administration on Alcoholism). It is through this group that the EAP concept was expanded worldwide.
In 1981 the NIAAA funding was revoked yet EAPs prevailed by shifting focus towards work and management issues, as this was regarded as a more significant commercial issue. In 1990 ALMACCA changed its name to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. In many ways this was similar to the previous formation of field workers, but the focus was now on a wider range of issues than just alcohol.
At the same time, EAPs were developing around the world, accelerated by the need of global organisations. EAPs spread to the UK in the late 1970s and the first EAP companies were formed in response to the demand for counselling and psychological services.
In the UK, as organisations sought to address wider work-life balance issues, EAPs added services such as legal information, health information, and child and elder health and support location services. EAPs really expanded following a series of high profile occupational stress related cases, the most important being Sutherland v Hatton in 2002 where workplace counselling was cited within Lady Justice Hale’s judgement: ‘An employer who offers a confidential advice service, with referral to appropriate counselling or treatment services, is unlikely to be found in breach of duty’.
EAP providers promoted their services to organisations as a means to offer this ‘duty of care’. The role of the EAP also expanded rapidly in the UK following the work by the Health and Safety Executive on ‘Stress Management Standards’ in 2005.
The UK EAPA was established in 1998 to represent the interests of the industry and to expand knowledge and understanding of EAPs in the UK.
You can read more about the history of EAPs in the UK EAPA Guidelines, available to download here, along with many other EAP resources.