A recent study of 2,000 organisations by PricewaterhouseCoopers calculates that absenteeism is costing British business approximately £32 billion per annum. The global professional services and consulting firm states that even this number may be conservative, as it reflects the direct cost of absence and does not take into account potential replacement costs and lost productivity.
A large portion of these absences can be attributed to work-related stress, depression and anxiety-related illness. Previous studies have estimated as much as 50 percent of workplace absence has nothing to do with health.
One of the most common employee benefit offerings – the employee assistance programme (EAP) – is also one of the most effective management tools to combat absenteeism caused by work-related stress, mental health issues, and personal and domestic reasons.
Here are key components of a well-designed EAP programme that if effectively maximised, can help combat absenteeism:
- Effective communication to employees of the EAP programme. To introduce the programme to your employees, an EAP should have a professionally executed education programme, from brochures and posters to wallet cards, Internet sites and employee orientation by expert trainers. Ongoing communication that promotes programme benefits and access of information, and helps educate employees and their managers is also vital to strong utilisation and the overall effectiveness of the programme.
- Integration of EAP with Work-Life services. Work-Life services focus on helping employee with normal life experiences, such as finding child care and receiving guidance on legal and financial matters, before they turn into major stressors. Additionally, these services help keep employees productive at work. As many as one-third of individuals who access services, according to a recent study, needed both EAP counselling and various work-life services to address their issues. As a result, when the two are integrated, stress levels decrease, absenteeism declines, and productivity increases.
- Immediate Access to Professional Staff. The intake staff (medical advisors) who answers calls from your employees should be well-qualified, experienced and well-trained professionals. For example, in the UK, ComPsych GuidanceConsultantsSM are all registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). In addition, each nurse holds a certificate in Counselling Skills for Nurses, or is sponsored to complete the certificate on joining the organisation. The use of trained, licensed professionals reduces company risk, but just as importantly ensures that the individual calling is correctly assessed and the appropriate services provided, including local EAP providers for in-person counselling.
- Care Management. Staff professionals should review treatment plans with local, in-person EAP providers and/or specialised cases to manage the quality and appropriate level of care.
- Organisational Support and Training. Many EAP vendors offer training and consultation services. Using these services extends the effectiveness of your EAP by providing ongoing programme consultation; training to help HR managers professionally address employee absenteeism issues and retain valued employees, as well as manager and employee training on a wide variety of topics.
- Integration with other disability/leave. Studies shows that employees who utilise EAP services during behavioural disability leave were absent 17 fewer days, and were two times more likely to return to work than individuals not using EAP services.
Organisational Case Study: Multi-National Provider of Insurance Services
A young employee was increasingly absent or tardy while giving questionable reasons for missing work. Eventually, his absenteeism fell within the company’s guidelines for conducting a probationary review to determine if his employment would be continued. In this meeting, the employee disclosed to the company that he might have a drinking problem. The HR professional initiated a plan for the employee to complete agreed-upon counselling sessions with the EAP and also provided additional support groups. The company later reported that the employee successfully completed the programme, had not missed a day since and had gone on to be a top salesperson, stating the programme had “changed his life.”
The end result: by tapping into ComPsych’s experience, the company was able to address an absenteeism issue while keeping and developing a promising employee and fostering loyalty and better performance.