Businesses urged to put staff wellbeing at the forefront by encouraging use of Employee Assistance Programmes for World Mental Health Day

Eugene Farrell, Chair of the Employee Assistance Programme Association

To mark World Mental Health Day today, the UK’s association for Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) is calling on businesses to do more to make staff aware of what help is available to them, especially when it comes to mental health.

Eugene Farrell, Chair of the Employee Assistance Programme Association (EAPA) – the research body which represents the interests of EAP providers across the UK – says World Mental Health Day is the perfect time to remind businesses that they can and should be doing far more to make employees know that help is available to them through their employer.

The latest research from EAPA shows that the EAP market is strong in the UK, being worth £25million, and yet take-up EAP services by employees is alarmingly low. Only 5% of employees with an EAP make use of it, despite the fact that nearly half of the UK’s workforce have an EAP as part of their employee benefits.

Eugene says: “World Mental Health Day this year is about a very solemn topic indeed: suicide. With deaths by suicide having risen by 11.8% in 2018*, this is something that every single one of us must  take extremely seriously, and  employers have a big part to play in that.

“A lot of the themes around this year’s World Mental Health Day are about taking time to reach out to those in need. EAPA would like to contribute to that debate by urging businesses to reach out to their staff by letting them know the valuable support that is available to anyone who is struggling with their mental health, via their EAP. As well as actively promoting their EAPs, we also urge employers to look at how the EAP fits into the wider wellbeing strategy so that all elements of support are working together effectively to support employee mental health.”

EAPs are designed to offer staff a range of support with issues they may be struggling with, including physical discomfort, financial problems and mental health, with the aim of boosting morale and wellbeing. EAPA’s research shows that a greater focus on mental health generally has been accompanied by a growing demand for EAP support. The most common uses of an EAP are for depression and coping with family events.

EAPA urges employers to look at what more they can do to encourage staff to take up and benefit from EAP services.

World Mental Health Day is a perfect opportunity to build awareness and knowledge of how EAPs can support staff. Some ideas might include:

  • An email to all staff to mark World Mental Health Day that contains a simple message about the importance of mental health and wellbeing and signposting to the EAP and ways to access it.
  • Virtual posters on workplace sites/social media pages marking World Mental Health Day and advising staff as to how they can access support from their EAP.
  • Host a series of informal meetings/talks on World Mental Health Day, advising staff of how they can access their EAP.