Rediscover the Forgotten Cost-Saver

EAP Awareness

An Employee Assistance Program is a familiar entity to human resources mangers at the vast majority of mid- to large-sized U.S. companies. Whether by gut feeling or statistical study, they understand that EAPs are good for the workforce, therefore, good for the company. But in some organizations, EAP services are underused and underappreciated. They are bought and paid for, then often forgotten or ignored. The potential ROI on EAPs cannot be realized if the EAP isn’t sufficiently utilized by those employees who could benefit.

The positive return on investment for employee assistance programs has been well-established for decades. If you need a refresher, consider this from Eugene Farrell, business manager at AXA ICAS International, a leading provider of employee wellness services and occupational health support:

 There’s never been a single piece of research that showed an EAP was a cost to an employer. At worst, the return on investment is 1:1, but most employers see a higher return in terms of improved absence levels and productivity.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for every dollar invested in EAP services, employers should see a savings of $5 or more. But the difference between a worst-case scenario 1:1 return and a much higher one is utilization. And utilization can only come from a consistent, comprehensive informational campaign aimed at your population.

Consider this: If an employee with marital problems is ready for help and isn’t fully aware of your EAP or how it works, he (or she) is likely to access his employer-provided mental health coverage. This is an expensive use of company health plan resources. On the flip side, if this employee was well-aware of and comfortable with short-term, professional EAP counseling — for which fees have already been capitated — those services cost the company nothing extra. Short-term EAP counseling (along with other program benefits) often suffices for this and many other behavioral health needs that otherwise would be treated with expensive health plan benefits.

Additionally, consider the many employees whose behavioral risks go unidentified and who opt for no services while in distress because they fear the stigma, deductibles or copays — none of which are issues with anonymous, no-cost EAP services. These under-the-radar distressed employees drive costs up in many ways, including absenteeism, presenteeism, lower productivity and stress-related physical illness health claims. Your company’s EAP is already sitting there, paid for, and ready to enhance workforce wellbeing and save you money.

How do you get started? You have to get the word out. You can start small with posters in the break room and a link on the corporate website. Or you can get serious. Ensure that your wellness vendor is doing their part to heighten EAP consciousness. If they’re not, find an enlightened vendor who knows the importance of EAP awareness and access and their relationship to wellness and cost savings. They can conduct employee communication campaigns to educate your people about program resources. They can offer dedicated Web pages on your wellness site, highlighting your EAP’s services and contact information.

Your wellness program should be enhancing your EAP’s profile to improve your bottom line.


Farrell, Eugene; as cited in Barrett, Sam; “Distressed Assets”; Corporate Advisor Magazine; March 2009.

Nazario, Brunilda, MD; “‘Presenteeism’ Hurts Employees and Employers”; WebMD; 4/23/2004.

“The Causes and Costs of Absenteeism in the Workplace”;; 7/10/2013.