How to Make an EAP Referral to Your Employees

June 03, 2024

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a workplace benefit that helps employees manage everyday challenges that could negatively impact work or life. Multiple studies have shown that employee assistance programs are a win-win benefit. When employees have the support they need to manage life’s challenges, organizations are more likely to have an engaged and productive workforce.

When employee assistance programs were first introduced in the 1930s, they focused on addressing alcohol abuse. Over time, EAPs expanded their services to address a wide range of challenges, including:

  • Mental health issues – stress, anxiety, depression, family or workplace conflicts, substance misuse, and related personal concerns
  • Legal concerns – wills, estate planning, divorce, and real estate
  • Financial issues – budgeting, paying off debt, planning for retirement, and preventing or recovering from identity theft
  • Work-life responsibilities – finding information and referrals for childcare, eldercare, adoption, or services to support a family member with special needs, such as education, transportation, and housing. EAP services also include pet care referrals

EAPs also provide management consultations. Managers and supervisors can consult with their EAP account manager for guidance and support with the following:

  • Referring employees to the EAP program
  • Managing employee performance
  • Finding support with organizational challenges
  • Preventing or recovering from critical incidents

How to Recognize When an Employee Might Benefit from an EAP Referral

As a supervisor, you are in a position to recognize when employees may be facing challenges. You know their leave records, work habits, typical job conduct, and appearance. You may also have an awareness of their personal life.

There may also be times when you face unexpected and unpredictable workplace behaviors. While it’s not your job to diagnose mental health concerns or substance abuse, it is important to be able to recognize potential red flags that may indicate something is wrong, including:

  • Accidents with equipment or declining work performance
  • Odd speech patterns or poor coordination
  • Moodiness or behavioral changes
  • Challenges that interfere with focusing on work or being available to work

When you recognize these situations, it’s important to address an employee’s behavior or challenges professionally. Your EAP account manager can help. They will ask questions to assess the situation and apply clinical and organizational knowledge to guide you through the process.

Making an informal EAP referral

One of the easiest and most effective tools in your leadership toolkit is an informal EAP referral. Essentially, an informal referral is having a private conversation with your employee. You want to let them know what you’ve observed, that you are concerned about them, and that their employee assistance program can be a helpful resource.

You are also in a position to influence employees to do something about a problem. A person who may not listen to family and friends will frequently make changes when their workplace intervenes.

These tips can help you make a successful informal referral:

  • Emphasize confidentiality. You are simply informing an employee that this resource is available. Remind them that the EAP does not provide any specific or identifying information to you or the organization. Any personal information shared with EAP providers remains private and confidential, following HIPAA privacy rules and federal law.
  • Remind them that self-referrals are voluntary. The employee contacts the EAP when they are ready. Remind them that these services are free, accessible 24/7, and can be accessed by phone or online.
  • Remind them that EAPs help address life’s most common challenges. Some employees may not be aware of their EAP. Others may think of it as a mental health benefit. Remind your employees that today’s EAPs can help address life’s most common challenges. They can also help them address problems as they arise, and prevent them from becoming bigger concerns that will impact his or her job.

There may be times when you may want to make sure your employee understands potential consequences if a problems persist. Establish a reasonable timeframe for changes to occur and schedule a follow-up meeting.

Continue to observe and document behavior and performance, noting improvements or deteriorating behaviors, or other relevant evidence. If the problem is sufficiently resolved, communicate this to the employee. If problems persist, consider updating Human Resources on your efforts.

Making a formal referral

When an employee’s performance issues or behavioral challenges persist, the employee can be directed to the EAP with a formal referral. This is also known as a mandatory EAP referral.

When you make a mandatory EAP referral, the employee assistance program will assess the employee and make referrals or recommendations to address any personal issues that may be interfering with the employee’s job performance.

A mandatory EAP referral can help:

  1. Retain effective employees whose personal issues may be interfering with their job performance or behavior.
  2. Provide an alternative to enabling poor performance or termination.
  3. Provide help for those who may not seek help on their own.

If you are unsure whether a mandatory EAP referral is necessary or if you would like help starting the process, contact your EAP account manager.

If an employee chooses NOT to follow through with a mandatory referral, document this. However, managers should also explain that if performance or behavioral concerns continue to interfere with the employee’s job performance, they may face disciplinary or corrective action following company policy.

For more serious workplace infractions, such as active substance abuse, threats of violence, or gross disregard for company safety procedures, consult your human resources department or EAP account manager to determine the best source of action.

Some organizations may be concerned that taking certain actions against employees, such as discharging them because they reject an EAP referral, could lead to disability discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that the mere referral to an EAP, by itself, is likely not enough to establish that the employer treated the employee as having a disability.

Ask about other support services

Account managers can also arrange training programs to support employees and leadership teams. The training programs discuss work-life balance, caregiving, adjusting to change, improving communication, overcoming compassion fatigue and burnout, navigating conflict, and promoting diversity.

Account managers can also help organizations and leadership teams by providing a Critical Incident Response (CIR) or a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). These critical response services can help organizations and employees cope with natural disasters, an employee’s illness or death, workplace violence, layoffs, or other traumatic events that impact the workplace.

Next steps?

Finding the right employee assistance program for your organization can be challenging. When selecting or renewing an employee assistance program, it pays to look closely at what is offered. Review contracts carefully, watch for added fees for services, and check employee utilization rates.

To learn more, visit AllOne Health employee assistance programs.