Employee Assistance Programs are becoming an increasingly popular employee benefit in the restaurant industry — here’s why.
At the end of the day, a free meal and minimum wage are not enough — our industry’s workers are falling behind in overworked and stressed environments, not to mention facing a continuously increased cost of living. It’s up to employers to seek effective ways to increase their employees’ livelihoods and work environments to improve retention and create a sustainable career path for others. In a series of interviews, we spoke with some top restaurants working to provide more for their employees. One commonality between each restaurant was that they offered an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP’s are a great addition to your benefits package and can go a long way in supporting your staff when facing whatever life throws at them.
If you’re not too familiar with Employee Assistance Programs but want to learn new ways to empower your staff — here’s a basic overview.
What it is
According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), an EAP is a work-based intervention program that assists full-time and part-time employees facing stressful circumstances at work and in their personal lives. EAP’s are generally associated with providing resources for substance abuse and alcohol. Still, many programs offer assistance for a wide range of concerns, like mental health and traumatic events, childcare and eldercare, financial and legal issues, and even workplace conflicts with coworkers and management. Some EAP’s even extend out to an employee’s family.
Confidentiality is a crucial part of the program’s effectiveness. According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, “Program success and credibility hinge on confidence by all parties that the EAP respects their privacy and will appropriately protect the information that they disclose.” If employees believe that using an EAP could negatively impact their job, they will most likely avoid using it, and the benefits of offering the program would be ineffective.
How it works
SHRM explains that services through a program are typically at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers as a part of comprehensive health insurance plans. To get help, employees contact an intake coordinator who will connect them with referrals and counseling based on the employee’s needs. Most services are offered over the phone, virtual meetings, online chatting, email, and/or face to face.
An employer can suggest a worker utilizes an EAP. Still, according to SHRM, this is typically done if an employee has disclosed something difficult they are dealing with or if there is a performance issue. Employers should be cautious when mandating the use of an EAP. In some cases, an employer could be perceived as violating protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Employers should focus on the employee’s job performance rather than on a real or perceived medical condition when making a mandatory EAP referral to avoid discrimination claims,” an article published on SHRM claims. It’s good to provide program information upon hire and display them somewhere employees can easily access without compromising confidentiality, like a breakroom.
Why they’re good for business
For starters, you can’t honestly expect your employees to leave their baggage at the door the moment they arrive at work 100% of the time — whatever stressors they’re facing, be it from work or at home, it’s going to impact their performance. EAP’s provide a way for your employees to seek help and solve any problems that lead to performance issues. Assistance programs have been shown to help employers reduce absenteeism, accidents at work, employee turnover and help with increasing employee productivity and engagement.
In addition to increasing employee performance, offering benefits goes a long way in your hiring efforts. In today’s labor market, employers with more to offer potential employees will always attract more qualified workers and more applications.
How to get started
Start by speaking with a human resources professional when incorporating an EAP. If you don’t have an HR department, we recommend reaching out to an HR Consultant, like our friends at HR Annie Consulting. They can help steer you in the right direction based on your needs and what type of delivery model will work best. Many employers choose to outsource an EAP, and an HR team can help decide which providers will work best for you.
Employee Assistance Programs are a fantastic way to support and empower your team to take action toward the betterment of their lives. If you’re looking for a way to give more to your staff by increasing the benefits you offer — research EAP’s and if they’re suitable for your business.