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• HR Managers had been able to negotiate a cheaper contract price in their latest round of
“I think for me, because I have now secured for our future contract something that is £7,000 cheaper from what we have had in the previous three years, with additional services added [it is cost-effective]. I am happy that we have got really good value for money for the next season of the contract.” (Participant 8).
• The EAP is cheaper than the services that organisations had for wellbeing improvement
“I think it is actually a really cheap service. If you compare it to what we had in place previously then this is actually far less expensive.” (Participant 6)
• The costs of EAPs are actually very minimal per employee for the level of service they provide:
“I see it as an essential commodity, and you know, it’s not going to be stupid money.
The per head cost is minimal for the service that is provided. And therefore it is not really a question about money, but the value for the staff that use it.” (Participant 2) A number of HR Managers argued that return-on-investments could not be calculated as there was no real way of knowing that any changes in sickness absence, wellbeing or engagement scores that had been captured by any EAP provider data or internal organisational staff survey/ data collection methods was the result of having an EAP, as in many cases, the EAP was one of a number of measures introduced to improve employee wellbeing. Therefore any correlations
that are made may not be truly representative of the role of the EAP:
“Obviously sickness absence has reduced, but we can’t just attribute that to an EAP. We can lump it in with all our strategies…but it is very difficult to pin something down to one specific area.” (Participant 7) When being questioned about financial evaluations, a number of HR Managers did indicate that this was something that could be done, or should be done in the future, especially as other organisational programmes were more comprehensively evaluated. One manager recognised that conducting a cost-benefit analysis or a return-on-investment would make a stronger business case for EAPs and would help their organisation consider EAP providers, but that even if that happened, the CEO would still insist that having an EAP was not data or financially driven, but a service that was needed to help staff if/when they wanted to use it.
“We have never need asked to do one [a cost benefit analysis or return-on-investment], but I think it is an area that we should be looking at, if only to add to the business case of why we need to have one in place.” (Participant 8) Another manager described how their EAP was relatively new to the organisation, and undertaking financial evaluations would be a future priority, however, promotion of the service to ensure that employees both knew it was available and recognised the full range of services an EAP provided was currently higher on their agenda. Finally, one manager noted that financial evaluations would be a beneficial undertaking that they should do it in ‘an ideal world’, but they did not have the time, the resources or the systems in place to collect the data necessary and then conduct the calculations, and that there were more pressing HR issues to respond to.
Future Organisational Use of EAPs HR Managers were asked to consider their future use of EAPs, both in terms of whether they have/will consider changing their EAP service provider, and whether they have considered cancelling the EAP service altogether. In the online survey, of the 43 respondents who answered the question, 44% had considered changing EAP provider, 49% reported they would not want to change their provider, and 7% said they did not know.
Has your organisation considered changing the EAP Has your organisation considered changing the EAP provider?
The qualitative interviews provided evidence as to why organisations may want to change providers. The main topic of discussion was whether the service continued to be value for money. Managers were insistent that this was not just based on the cost of the service this also included the level of service that they received for the fee, and the quality of the service
“It depends on whether it continues to be value for money or not. So I don’t just mean what the overall cost is, but I mean what we are actually getting for that service, so whether the account management declines, or they are not responsive enough, or if the services like the training are not proving to be very useful…” (Participant 1) One manager provided an example of having to change their provider as initially they received poor quality of responses to requests, they were receiving complaints and poor feedback from employees. After a tender exercise, where a smaller EAP provider was chosen, they remarked on the better customer service, account management and improved service delivery, in essence the new provider had ‘better ethos and engagement’. Breaking confidentiality, putting obstacles in the way of employees accessing support services, and despondent account management were other reasons offered from changing EAP providers.
The relationship with the account manager was critical in developing this positive service delivery. The quantitative survey suggested that just under 2/3 of respondents had regular contact with their account manager (63%), 29% did not have regular contact with account managers, where 8% reported they did not know. Interviewees highlighted that if account managers have too many clients to cover then service quality reduced and contact with the EAP
became more difficult:
“I’ve just had to change my account manager because the previous relationship wasn’t working and you do really need to get the right account manager. If they don’t really understand your business and what you need, then it can actually be quite painful.” (Participant 3) Another reason supplied for changing EAP providers was that some public sector organisations were part of a government framework, which meant that it would be more cost-effective for them when on the framework to procure EAP services rather than tendering as an individual organisation. They were keen to emphasise that the service of their current provider had been excellent, but with budget cuts in services, going through the framework may be best option for them.
Conversely, there were managers who were very happy with their current provider, and could not see any reason for changing their provider in the future. Once again, the account manager and the related service quality was a big influencer in this decision. Positive relationships were defined as honest and open, there was a willingness to partake in contract negotiation, swift replies when asked for information and a keenness to help wherever possible.
“It has always been an excellent relationship, I get on well with all the members of their team (the EAP), and particularly the contract manager. We have got a really good business relationship. It is honest and it is open, and it is always about service delivery, so that never escapes us. It means we can be very honest in terms of contract negotiation…” (Participant 8) When discussing whether an organisation had ever considered cancelling their EAP service, out of the 43 respondents who answered the question, 16% indicated they would, 79% wanted to keep the service, while 5% did not know.
Has your organisation considered cancelling the EAP service?
79% A number of reasons were given by the 16% who reported they would end their EAP contract.
The most common response was as a result of limited utilisation. This was discussed in the interviews, with many managers commenting that although usage was low, they still considered the service to be beneficial for employees as it provided a ‘back-up’, ‘insurance’ or ‘piece-ofmind’ to both employees and managers.
“I believe it is beneficial however little it is used, and potentially the benefits will be for both the organisation and the individual…it is something that I think is like an insurance policy. You know, if you don’t have to use it, it is all well and good, but it is there in case you do.” (Participant 2) All of the interviewees indicated that they were likely to keep providing an EAP in the future.
Many respondents re-iterated the fact that they believed the service was cost-effective, provided value for money, and that there was a strong business case for having one. Others commented that providing the service in the future indicates that the organisation has a strong well-being component and that they can be viewed as a ‘good employer’.
“I will not end the EAP contract, not for the moment and not in the foreseeable future. I think because it is cost-effective, but it is not just that, you know, to operate in the 21st century, you need to have an EAP in place.” (Participant 6) A few managers also described that if the EAP was taken away then there would be a gap in the organisation’s responsibility to help maintain employee wellbeing, and if there was not an EAP in place, then another service would have to be implemented that provided something similar.
In the qualitative interviews, HR Managers were also asked whether they would invest in EAPs in the future if they were taxed as an employee benefit. The majority of the respondents said that they would still invest in EAPs, explaining that the benefits of EAPs also outweigh the negatives, and the benefits of employees being productive in the workplace are much bigger than the cost spent, and that you would have to have something in place as EAPs are extremely valuable.
Other managers reported that they probably would invest in EAPs still, but there may be under
greater scrutiny about the value that they are getting for the overall cost:
“I suppose that we would have to stop and think about the costs, and how much more we are talking about. So this might give us some pause for thought. I would just say that it would make us think, but I don’t think that it would be a show stopper.” (Participant 5) Some questioned how taxing an EAP would work. One HR Manager queried whether employees would opt in for the service if it had to be deducted from their pay, even though they predicted that it would only be a small amount of money. Another questioned what the knock-on effects would be for other members of the organisation, especially how the administration would work. Finally, one HR Manager thought that taxing an EAP as an employee benefit seemed to
“We would have to think about what the impact would be, and what the cost to the organisation would be. I think the whole thing would be counter-intuitive. I don’t understand why you would tax something that is potentially having a positive impact on work, and put that tax on the employees. We would probably still go for it, but it will make us think.” (Participant 9) The Role of UK EAPA Interview participants were asked about their understanding and knowledge of UK EAPA and how their role in the EAP market could be improved and what more they could offer organisations who provide EAP services. Half of the interviewees had heard of UK EAPA and half had not. However, some of those who had heard of UK EAPA admitted that it was purely accidental, or they happened to be at a conference at the ‘right place and the right time’ when their organisation was going through a tender process. One manager only found out about UK
“I was tendering for a new EAP contract, and one of the reasons I am aware of them is because they came up on Google, and the advertising department alerted me to them.
We were not aware of them before this, so it was when we tendered, and the EAPs talked about being a member of UK EAPA.” (Participant 9) While these organisations now look at the website occasionally to see if there were any updates
or new information about EAPs or service delivery, one manager noted that:
“I like to keep my finger on the pulse, and I like to know what is going on. I don’t think that you can confess to be an EAP contract manager and not be in touch with them.” (Participant 6) Despite that statement, 5 of the interviewees were not aware of UK EAPA. One participant noted that they had worked in the industry for a number of years but had never come across them, however, they did justify this statement by adding that they had never been involved in a tendering process, and that could be why. Another added that they had never had any issues with their providers and so had no need to look outwards for further guidance regarding EAP service implementation, evaluation or service development.
Participants provided a number of ways through which UK EAPA could improve their awareness amongst EAP contract managers – much of these were centred around raising their profile and visibility among contract managers. A number of contract managers spoke about the need to develop some form of EAP standards so that the consistency of EAPs could be measured to
make it easier to judge EAP quality when undertaking a tender process:
“Does UK EAPA have a register of all the EAPs in the UK? Because if they do, we need a way of measuring the consistency of delivery and quality of what we have. We are lucky that we have a good one here, but there will be bad ones out there I am sure.
What they could have is a measuring system like the corporate health standard – so for example EAPs were able to say whether they were a gold, silver or bronze standard.” (Participant 8) A number of interviewees suggested that UK EAPA could improve their visibility through the use of social media, and developing webinars on topics regarding EAPs (e.g. tendering, promotion, how to get the best out of your EAP etc.). One participant suggested that there could be local meetings to discuss local organisational issues. Finally, a few HR Managers reported that UK EAPA needs to decide who its target audience needs to be, as there seemed to be more
promotion among health and wellbeing topics, whereas targeting HR may be more helpful: