The future of employee assistance

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Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are becoming an increasingly common part of benefits packages, with about half of Canadian employers offering some form of assistance program.

Originally established to help fight drug and alcohol abuse among workers, the programs are changing and adapting to meet worker needs. So what are the latest developments and what can you expect from the future?

Problem solving

According to Ceridian executive vice president of HR solutions Cande Dandelé providers are seeing more and more calls to solve work/life issues such as finding daycare, legal or financial advice and other problems that might seem like they’re not work related.

“At first glance it might seem like it doesn’t matter for employers but we’re all human. If I’m distracted because of things I’m worried about or if I need to spend time solving problems it takes away from my productivity in the workplace,” Dandelé said. “So while we’re doing great work to help people, we’re also helping employers to keep their employees focused.”

Mental health support

“The biggest change is the increasing acceptance of mental health problems in the workplace,” according to EAP Survey president and CEO Warren Shepell, whose company helps organizations track the success of their programs. “Six per cent of a population in any given year will suffer from some form of mental health problem. We’ve always tried to address mental health issues, but now there is a greater acceptance in the workplace. “

More companies are acknowledging the need to support and understand their employee’s mental health, Dandelé said. “One of our most widely sought after training sessions is called Managing in an Emotional Climate. How do you identify that someone might be having a mental health or emotional issue, and then what’s open to you as a manager, a colleague, a friend in terms of helping that person access help and services,” she said.


It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot when talking about employee health, benefits and productivity. As health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and stress become more common, it’s in an employer’s best interest to help employees become healthier whether that’s through smoking cessation programs or health clinics.


Shepell notes that offering counselling and support online or through mobile technology is becoming increasingly common. “It’s much cheaper to offer online counselling but I’m not sure the evidence is clear as to whether or not this type of service is valuable.”

While mobile counselling offers some advantages, such as increased accessibility and flexibility, it could be insufficient for employees who would benefit from in-person support.

Next generation needs

What are your Gen Y workers going to need from an EAP? While the crystal ball might be cloudy, some clues lie in the younger generation’s focus on work/life balance, accessibility and mobility, and

“The challenge and the opportunity for EAPs going forward is to be relevant to millennials and younger people entering the workforce and helping employers keep employees engaged,” Dandelé said. “If employers are paying for a benefits it’s really critical that they have employees take advantage of that benefit so they get the value from the investment they’re making.”

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