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Employment

The Work-Life Balance Sheet – Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

Friday, April 8, 2022

With the cost of living rising at the fastest rate in living memory, it’s highly likely money concerns will be front of mind for employees.

From Brexit, food shortages and delivery issues to Covid and working lives turning upside down through to a fuel crisis and war in Europe. It’s one bitter cocktail of factors that’s sure to cause a financial headache for employers and employees alike.

Inflation was at around 6.2% in February but with the war in Ukraine the rise will likely continue above 8% and beyond. Traditionally to counter inflationary pressures the Bank of England would adjust interest rates. With a third of UK homes having outstanding mortgages those on a variable rate will soon be feeling the pain of additional monthly costs on top of this month’s dramatic increase in energy prices. Those paying rent will also find their costs increasing with commercial mortgages

Increasing fuel costs will be passed on to consumers further adding to the inflationary pressures. It all sounds rather depressing and I’m sure we’re already more than aware of the need to cut back and budget to navigate through a particularly difficult period.

The problems at work can be compounded by an employee’s partner being made redundant, falling ill and dropping into statutory sick pay or finding themselves faced with a sudden unexpected expense, fixing a car or a problem with their property.

When money worries start it can become debilitating, an all-consuming anxiety that hangs around bringing the mood down and an ability to concentrate on other matters almost impossible. The last thing that employee needs is to lose their job which only adds to the levels of stress.

As an employer it’s important to note that you will have staff in this situation and whilst you’re not going to be increasing salaries for all you can offer essential support to help them better manage the situation. Sharing personal financial matters is not an easy thing for us to do so it is important to offer any guidance and support on a strictly confidential basis.

Creating an information bank on the most common money worry areas, housing, childcare, loans, energy bills, food and essentials shopping, mobile/ broadband/ digital subscriptions and general tips on budgeting. Don’t assume all staff who regular use online resources at work will necessarily know where to go for help.

We all too often bury our heads in the sand rather than address an issue. He workplace can, if handled appropriately, offer a sanctuary to share and offload concerns helping to establish a plan to manage the finances.

The world is a complex place these days and over the past two years we’ve had our fair share of dramatic issues to contend with. As employers we should be mindful of the impact of these events and if not already considered establishing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) would be a very much appreciated resource at this time.

A good EAP should be able to provide a free helpline for staff the covers support in and out of office hours.

The areas it should cover on a confidential basis are support and advice on:

  • Financial including debt advice
  • Legal and consumer rights
  • Bereavement and trauma counselling
  • Childcare
  • Relationship counselling
  • Mental health through qualified counselling
  • Physical health and wellbeing including occupational therapy

The cost of these services are based on a monthly fee per employee but tend to be around £1 a month reducing per person as the overall payroll number increases.

The advantage of having a 3rd party professional support service rather than relying on your own HR staff helps the employee gain trust in the confidentiality of the programme, essential on particularly sensitive matters.

The service can be promoted to all staff and without gathering specific data on each individual you can gauge the global take up of the service and note which areas are of greatest demand.

If it transpires that a large number are calling upon the financial support line it could be worth offering additional help in that area by hosting talks from experts in a particular field which may be of interest to those who’ve not called the helpline. The trend picked up within your EAP will very likely be an indicator of the demand across the business.

If you have any queries or concerns relating to any of the articles above or a general enquiry regarding employment law please contact Robert Gibson or Martha Craven on 0191 2328451 or e-mail robertgibson@samuelphillips.co.ukmarthacraven@samuelphillips.co.uk

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