EAP Optional Services

EAP Optional Services

Dale Masi, PhD, LCSW-C


In previous columns, I’ve outlined the essential ingredients for an employee assistance program (EAP), and discussed the profession’s core technology for service delivery.  This column will explore some of the optional services that many EAPs provide.  Many of these are presented by the EAPs as “menu items” for corporate clients:  companies will purchase some of the services and decline others.  A very high percentage (approximately 90%) of these “optional services” are contracted out by the EAP.

The number of optional services offered by EAPs is quite varied, and can include outplacement services, drug-free workplace initiatives (including drug testing), coaching, risk management (with a focus on workplace violence and bullying), substance abuse professionals (SAP) services, wellness programs, and disability management.  But the most prevalent (and popular) optional EAP services usually fall into the category of Work/Life, which includes the services I will explore in this column: childcare and eldercare services, and financial and legal consultations.

EAP childcare services delivery should not be mistaken for on-site childcare facilities.  Typically, EAP childcare will provide in-depth consultation to employees on their child care choices; consultation and publications on how to select good quality care; personalized support during the parent’s search for care; parenting seminars; and referral to providers that meet the parent’s specifications.  Some childcare programs will include other optional services, such as summer and vacation camp information, after-school and back-up care referrals, special needs, and nanny services.  A few EAPs have even provided adoption services, which I oppose.

IBM was the first corporation to provide childcare information and referral services to its employees.  At the time (1984), I was working as a consultant with the company to develop and implement its initial EAP program.  IBM executives wanted to provide employees with childcare services, but did not want to establish on-site daycare centers.  EAPs, in their professional infancy, did not provide any sort of specific childcare service, so IBM contracted with a company called Work/Family Direction (which was fully staffed by Social Workers) to assess its options.  At that time in the U.S., there simply were not enough childcare facilities to meet the demand.  Working with Work/Family Direction, IBM donated money to various locales in the U.S. to establish childcare facilities, and Work/Family did the difficult quality assurance work of ensuring that these new facilities were properly staffed, and were safe and appropriate facilities for parents to take their children.  Work/Family Direction also provided consultation to IBM employees on childcare options, and would work with the family until a solution was found.

A few years later, Work/Family Direction also was instrumental in working with IBM to establish one of the first eldercare programs to be provided by a major U.S. company.  As with childcare, Work/Family would ensure that both the facilities and the professionals to whom they were referring employees were qualified, licensed, etc.

Following this work, Work/Family Direction was purchased by Ceridian, which led to the incorporation of childcare and eldercare services being adopted by a large number of EAPs nationwide.

Eldercare services today include information and referral services, support groups, and eldercare publications.  A major subdivision is geriatric care management, an expensive and personalized service that includes a large amount of face-to-face activity.  Eldercare service workers meet with the elder client and family members to develop a plan to meet the senior’s needs.

Legal and financial are two separate Work/Life services that are also frequently offered, and usually subcontracted out by the EAP to an outside vendor.  Both services provide callers a brief (usually 30 minute) free consultation.  If the employee would like to retain the attorney or the financial manager for longer, it is at the employee’s expense (though a discounted hourly rate is usually given).  Unfortunately, there is very little oversight by most EAPs in these two services, and, though most EAP clinical counselors are not allowed to refer to themselves, the lawyers and financial advisers are permitted to do so.

The legal services provided usually cover family law, bankruptcy, and wills and trusts.  Employment-related legal issues are not covered.  Financial services counselors will provide help with budgeting, retirement, bankruptcy, and estate planning, but cannot get involved with investments with EAP clients.

Too often, EAPs offer optional services as a way to increase their Book of Business.  However, many do not have the appropriate expertise to monitor the various programs, and do not provide the appropriate quality assurance that is necessary.