Moreover, as the cost of health care for employers continues to rise, EAP providers view themselves as a proactive service to reduce employee stress and other potential issues that could lead to health costs down the road, says Stella Antonakis, a senior consultant at Mercer, a human resources consultancy.
Antonakis, who has been in the industry since 1987 and started as a licensed clinician, says an EAP is "one of the more affordable" benefit costs for employers.
What's more, the service is free to employees, and the return on investment can be significant, she
The cost for employers varies depending on company size, level of customization and model design.
says the range is between $1 per employee per month for a three-session model to more than $3 for six or more sessions per employee per month.
According to data cited by Mercer
from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
, employers save between $5 and $16 for each dollar invested in an EAP because of reduced absences, turnover and medical claims.
"There are huge implications for employers as far as health care costs," Antonakis
The trouble is getting employees to participate in the program.
"What I see, unfortunately, is that utilization is not at a healthy level," Antonakis
Because providers tend to use different formulas to report EAP usage, there is no standardization in the industry.
says EAP usage for clinical services has hovered around 3 percent for some time.
says more communication and marketing is needed-as well as more education and awareness on mental health issues in the workplace-for employers to get the maximum value from the benefit.
The issues leading to employee absence and turnover have changed through the years.
And oftentimes, the changes reflect the broader forces at work in the economy.
For instance, Antonakis
says that substance abuse, while still a problem for many, has dropped down the list of reasons why workers use EAPs.