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Employee assistance programmes increasingly used for legal advice



More employees are using employee assistance programmes (EAPs) for legal advice rather than mental health, according to data from intermediary Towergate Health and Protection.

Calls from employees seeking legal advice from EAPs have increased by 25% in the last year.

The most common reason for advice calls to EAPs was employment issues (27%) including employment rights, pay and workplace stress.

The next most common need for advice was regarding divorce and separation (22%). Other queries included seeking advice on childcare, housing and civil action.

Read more: Employee assistance programmes more popular than ever

Karl Bennett, chair of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association said EAPs exist both to help deal with emotional stress and the practical reasons behind it.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “We often assume that EAPs are primarily helpful with emotional feelings of stress or anxiety where a conversation with a counsellor will help. What can be missed, though, is the practical issues driving the stress or anxiety being experienced.

“Someone may call an EAP for support with a divorce or separation they are going through.

“The EAP is contacted to support around the emotional impact, but during the initial assessment, it is identified that the upset is more around the practical issues, such as ‘can the locks be changed on the doors’, ‘what happens to the finances’, ‘what happens with the children’.

“Once the caller has the answers to these, they feel they have more control over the situation. This can significantly reduce the anxiety being experienced.”

Men account for 55% of all EAP counselling calls

Dump flawed employee assistance programmes

Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at insurance advisors Partners&, said employers need to understand how EAPs can best support staff, particularly during the cost of living crisis.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Given the economic environment, one of the most useful – and used – tools of the last few years have been the provision of free debt counselling services. This is a service that many more employers should promote when provided via their EAP.

“First-stage legal advice and suitable signposting are also often included, although many EAP’s do not include legal advice around employment issues given the potential conflicts of interest with the sponsoring employer.”

Herbert said EAPs’ value is limited if they are not well-signposted.

He added: “Employers should regularly promote the various services included in their EAP offering to all employees, and importantly HR should seek to ensure that all employees are able to access the service easily and rapidly when most needed.

“The EAP provider is likely to have some promotional tools available, so a good starting point is to seek their support when looking to promote the services available.” 

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