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Each Federal Executive Branch agency has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is a voluntary, confidential program that helps employees (including management) work through various life challenges that may adversely affect job performance, health, and personal well-being to optimize an organization's success. EAP services include assessments, counseling, and referrals for additional services to employees with personal and/or work-related concerns, such as stress, financial issues, legal issues, family problems, office conflicts, and alcohol and substance use disorders. EAPs also often work with management and supervisors providing advanced planning for situations, such as organizational changes, legal considerations, emergency planning, and response to unique traumatic events.
EAPs have a long history in the United States, tracing back to the 1940s. They originally began as occupational alcohol programs to address the negative impact that the misuse of alcohol has on productivity and organizational performance. The focus of these programs expanded as organizations recognized that alcohol was not the only issue affecting employees at work. Current EAPs address a wide range of issues, such as workplace conflicts, family matters, financial challenges, mental health, and so on.
In the 1970s, EAP-related legislation began to be passed, institutionalizing EAPs in Federal agencies. Review the Guidance & Legislation section for details on EAP laws, regulations, and Governmentwide initiatives. Another significant change to the EAP field in the 1970s was the formation of private EAP firms. These organizations began to offer EAP services via contracts to employers. As a result, Federal agencies can have one of four different EAP models: Internal, External, Hybrid, and Consortium. More recently, EAPs in Federal agencies have continued to expand their services and sustain their essential role. Many Federal EAPs now offer services for family members of employees.
OPM recommends agencies place a special emphasis on the EAP and the valuable role it plays by helping employees addressing issues that affect them at work, home, and in their communities. EAPs can reap benefits for agencies, employees, families, and communities by:
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Several legislative initiatives have shaped guidance and implementation of Employee Assistance Programs in the Federal Government. The Office of Personnel Management is charged through these legislative initiatives to provide overall guidance to Federal agencies, creating baseline expectations for agency programs and helping agencies implement those programs as effectively as possible.
The Employee Health Services Handbook's Chapter on Administering Employee Assistance Programs, written in collaboration with the Department of Heatlh & Human Services, offers policy guidance to assist agency management and program administrators in implementing successful Employee Assistance Programs.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides policy guidance and technical assistance to agencies in establishing and improving EAPs. In the development and implementation of EAPs, OPM works closely with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Federal Occupational Health (FOH) provides professional consultation and technical assistance to agencies in the development and oversight of EAP programs and delivers comprehensive EAP services to agencies through interagency agreements. Federal professionals monitor and evaluate the delivery of program services and provide quality assurance that employee and agency needs are being met. HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides assistance to agencies on facilitating and extending programs for the prevention of drug abuse and for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers. In terms of the Drug-Free Federal Workplace Program, SAMHSA is responsible for enforcing the Mandatory Guidelines on Drug Testing and coordinating the review of agency drug plans under E.O. 12564. SAMHSA also provides technical assistance to Federal agencies on drug testing, medical review, laboratory certification, and overall drug program implementation. SAMHSA compiles the Semi-Annual Report on Drug Testing.
Individual Federal Agencies Responsibilities
Title 5 U.S.C. 7901, Public Law 79-658 enables each agency to establish a health service program to promote and maintain the physical and mental fitness of employees.
Counseling programs for Federal civilian employees who have substance abuse problems are required by:
Public Law 99-570 (5 U.S.C. §§7361 and 7362), The Federal Employee Substance Abuse Education and Treatment Act of 1986, and title 5 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 792, requires Federal agencies to establish appropriate prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative programs and services for alcohol and substance use disorders for Federal civilian employees.
Public Laws 96-180 and 96-181 authorize your agency to extend counseling services, to the extent feasible, to family members of employees who have alcohol and drug problems, and to employees with family members who have a substance use disorder.
Public Law 79-658 authorizes the head of agency to establish health services programs for employees, also forms the basis for expanding counseling programs from those dealing solely with a substance use disorder to broad range programs which provide counseling for other personal problems, e.g. family, financial, marital, etc.
Executive Order 12564 requires your agency to establish a drug-free Federal workplace program, including an EAP as an essential element in achieving a drug-free workforce. Your agency must refer all employees found to use illegal drugs to the EAP for assessment, counseling, and referral for appropriate 'treatment or rehabilitation.
The Federal EAPs: Guiding Principles, Frameworks, and Definitions is the product of the 2008 Federal Employee Assistance Program Summit. Developed as a guide, rather than a requirement, for Federal EAP Administrators and other stakeholders, the information provided is based on participants' knowledge of best practices in the EAP field, as well as their own experience and understanding of EAP in Federal workplaces, and is intended to address the ways in which these programs can best meet mental and behavioral health needs of the Federal workforce.
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Every agency provides EAP services to its employees at no cost. These programs are staffed by certified counselors who are available to discuss problems in a confidential, helpful manner.
Laws and policies that affect EAP Confidentiality
Following are the most frequently asked questions about the confidentiality of EAP records. To find more FAQs on EAP and Work/Life, please visit to Work/Life FAQs.
Most agencies have issued internal policy about their EAPs which assures that no matter what an employee's problem is, it will remain confidential.
We encourage you to contact your agency's EAP administrator for more information. You can find contact information for your EAP administrator through our Agency POC Contact Tool. You may also wish to contact your local Human Resources office for more information about your agency's EAP.
The use of illegal drugs by Federal employees, whether on or off the job, cannot be tolerated. Employees who use illegal drugs have three to four times more accidents while at work. Federal workers have a right to a safe and secure workplace, and all American citizens who depend on the work of the Federal government for their health, safety, and security have a right to a reliable and productive Federal workforce. In pursuit of this effort, the Office of Personnel Management in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services developed "Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors" to foster a better awareness in supervisors, managers, and human resource personnel of issues surrounding alcohol abuse, especially as it relates to the Federal workforce.
Since 1986, the Federal government has mandated a comprehensive drug-free workplace program for all Federal Executive Branch workers. Executive Order 12564 (Drug-Free Federal Workplace, 1986) established a condition of employment for all Federal employees to refrain from using illegal drugs on or off-duty. This comprehensive approach includes the following five components:
Another agency is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. They provide excellent guidance on through their Division of Workplace Programs. In particular, SAMHSA has developed a Model Plan for a Comprehensive Drug-free Workplace Program which may be helpful to agencies as they implement and improve their programs.
Several Federal agencies are involved in the Drug-Free Workplace effort. One of these is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. They have several resources available, including How Illicit Drug Use Affects Business and the Economy.
Launched in February 2003, Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. We encourage Federal managers and employees to review the information available on Ready in preparation for and response to emergency situations.
Emergencies, disasters, and other traumatic events are often unpredictable. They can strike anyone, anytime, and anywhere. You and your employees could be forced to respond to an emergencies when you least expect it. Familiarizing yourself with your agency's emergency action plan, as well as resources available to assist employees before, during and after an emergency, is helpful if you encounter an emergency situation.
After incidents, such as workplace assaults, unnatural deaths, and natural disasters, employees may experience a deterioration of job performance, personality change, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, co-worker conflicts, grief reactions, and depression. Each agency's Employee Assistance Program has professionals with expertise in helping employees, managers, and teams overcome these issues through developing techniques and plans for coping with stress, facilitating group debriefing sessions after traumatic events, identifying and referring employees to professional and community resources, and other recovery techniques.
On April 18, 2012, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum regarding the review of policies addressing domestic violence in the federal workplace. The memo stated that despite considerable progress made since the initial passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, domestic violence remains a significant problem in our society. The memorandum specifically directs agencies to send any existing agency-specific policies and practices for addressing the effects of domestic violence in the workplace to OPM. Upon receipt and review of the policies and practices, OPM, in consultation with other agencies and experts in domestic violence, issued the Guide for Agency-Specific Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Policies and the Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Resource List.
Mental disorders are common in the United States, and in a given year approximately a quarter of adults are diagnosable for one or more disorders.
Mental health is an important issue in the workplace. It is a state of well-being in which an individual achieves his or her own potential, copes effectively with the normal challenges of life, and is able to work more efficiently and productively. To support Federal efforts, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a memorandum to Heads of Executive Department and Agencies, highlighting the importance of ensuring the workforce has access to the appropriate resources. The memorandum also included fact sheets for supervisors and employees. The fact sheets highlight key resources to increase awareness and access to services when needed. Below are links to the memorandum and fact sheets.
Since Employee Assistance Program (EAP) personnel are involved in the initial assessment of conditions and treatment referrals, they play a vital role in achieving healthy outcomes for Federal employees and their families. There are a number of strategies agencies can pursue to support employees' mental health:
An essential role of Federal agency Work/Life and EAP coordinators involves reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. You may have an excellent EAP program; however, the stigma associated with mental health treatment may be great enough to discourage your agency's employees from seeking assistance. Nearly two-thirds of all people with diagnosable mental disorders do not seek treatment.
For more information, we encourage you to review the Department of Health & Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Developing a Stigma Reduction Initiative.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration has developed several FREE, useful guides for professionals and the general public. Federal Work/Life coordinators, EAP administers, and employees are encouraged to utilize these materials when addressing issues regarding mental health.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health's Stress at Work website offers knowledge about the causes of stress at work and outlines steps that can be taken to prevent job stress.
The National Institute of Mental Health is the lead Federal agency for research on mental and behavioral disorders. Here you can find a vast about of information regarding mental health, as well as current and past research initiatives.
We all have a need to seek help and consultation at some point in our lives. Whether it's helping you to navigate life's transitions, find more satisfaction in your work, or maximize your physical and emotional wellbeing, the EAP is here to assist.
EAPs can offer a wide array of services. Each Federal agency determines what services to offer based on the needs of their agency and workforce. If you are interested in learning about EAP services available to you, contact your agency’s EAP Administrator. You can find your EAP Administrator by contacting your local HR office and/or searching OPM’s Work-Life Contact Tool. Below are some common services for individuals, managers, and agencies.
EAP services are free, voluntary, and confidential. These programs can help employees and managers address a broad and complex body of personal and workplace issues, such as:
Many agencies offer services for employees and their families.