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Employee Assistance Programs

Core Employee Assistance Program Services 

Federal EAP’s are the first component of an Employee Wellness Program and should be designed to support and uplift the 8 Dimensions of Wellness, which include emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental, and psychological aspects. Prioritizing each dimension based on employees’ individualized needs can lead to a healthier and more positive lifestyle and state of mind. While Federal EAPs can include a variety of resources, supports, trainings, and services for individuals, managers, and agencies, the services outlined below should be standard in any Federal EAP. 

Cultural Competency Services 

Cultural competency services are designed to increase the ability of individuals to understand and respect values, attitudes, and beliefs which may differ from one’s own views or culture and can be instrumental in supporting and fostering diverse workplaces and healthy interactions.  These services should include resources and supports for underserved communities, and incorporate training programs in the areas of cultural and ethnic awareness, workplace microaggressions, and gender inclusivity. In accordance with E.O. 14035, these resources should also include referrals and access to external resources for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary employees including but not limited to resources to assist employees in navigating workplace and social transitions, and related education for family members of transitioning employees. 

Mental Health Counseling Services 

Counseling services offer employees the opportunity to speak to a licensed clinician or counselor 24/7 regarding a variety of professional or personal topics which may impact the employee’s well-being and should also include mindfulness assistance and supports. Providers should work with employees to provide referrals to in-network support for long-term assistance. Agency leaders should regularly remind employees that private, confidential support is always available to assist them in navigating changes and challenges, and to support their mental health and overall well-being. 

Financial and Legal Services 

Financial and legal services can provide resources and assistance in areas such as drafting a living will and health care power of attorney, housing or real estate matters, estate planning, education funding, family budgeting, retirement planning, investment strategies and many more. These services should also provide referrals to employees to professional assistance for additional or more complex legal and financial matters. 

Dependent Care Services 

Dependent Care services are designed to equip employees with a variety of helpful aids which can assist them in caring for their families. These services should include assistance locating quality care within an employee’s locality for children, elders, and other dependents, resources and supports for employees in various stages of parenting, access to worksite lactation support for nursing employees (to include accommodations for pumping, and appropriate storage of breast milk), as well as educational tools to facilitate a smooth integration of an employee’s professional and family responsibilities. 

Workplace Conflict Resolution Services 

Workplace Conflict Resolution services provide employees, managers, and supervisors with assistance in navigating workplace tensions and challenging dynamics, and helpful communication methods to overcome past, current, and future barriers in professional relationships. These services should offer both group and one on one mediation sessions, as well as resources, trainings, and supports to assist employees and managers in learning and practicing healthy communication strategies and conflict resolution techniques. 

Substance Use Treatment Services 

Substance Use Treatment services offer referrals to employees who may be using illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than what they are intended. EAPs can help promote workplaces that encourage and support employees to pursue recovery from mental health and/or substance use conditions.  This includes developing workplace policies and practices that facilitate a psychologically safe work environment where issues of stigma are overcome, and employees are encouraged and comfortable to seek needed supports. These services can also provide resources, education, and training to assist employees in recognizing possible signs and symptoms of substance use disorder. 

Crisis Intervention Services 

Crisis intervention services provide immediate and short-term emergency response to sudden traumatic events which can negatively impact an employee’s mental, emotional, or physical state. These services should offer traumatic incident response, violence prevention, and crisis management training, resources, and counseling for individuals and organizations.   

Employee Assistance Program Models  

An Employee Wellness Program includes a traditional Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as well as additional supports and resources to a create a more comprehensive approach to employee well-being and enhance Federal Employees’ autonomy in obtaining care. EAPs can be executed by utilizing several different program models. Agencies should select the model which will be most effective within their organization, and provide the most comprehensive selection of services, trainings, resources, and supports to Federal Employees.  

Internal EAP Models 

In an internal Employee Assistance Model, also referred to as an “in-house” employee assistance model, organizations utilize agency employees to offer any services provided through the EAP. In this model, agencies staff their Employee Assistance Programs with knowledgeable professionals who are employed through the agency. In internal models, EAP providers may have a greater internal knowledge and understanding of the agency and potential related stressors.  

External EAP Models 

In an external Employee Assistance Model, agencies outsource all services provided through the agency EAP. With this model, an agency’s EAP services are provided through negotiated contracts or interagency agreements with a service provider.  External Employee Assistance models can be cost effective when the programs are tailored to the specific needs of the agency. Since supports provided are external to the agency in an external model, they may be viewed as fostering greater employee trust in EAP providers’ confidentiality and objectivity. 

Hybrid EAP Models 

Hybrid Employee Assistance Models involve the usage of both internal agency professionals and external service providers to render services to employees. This type of model can benefit from the advantages of both internal and external wellness delivery models and can offer agencies a more comprehensive selection of resources and services. 

Additional Support

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:

  1. A statement of policy setting forth the agency's expectations regarding drug use and the action to be anticipated in response to identified drug use;
  2. Employee Assistance Programs emphasizing high level direction, education, counseling, referral to rehabilitation, and coordination with available community resources;
  3. Supervisory training to assist in identifying and addressing illegal drug use by agency employees;
  4. Provision for self-referrals as well as supervisory referrals to treatment with maximum respect for individual confidentiality consistent with safety and security issues; and
  5. Provision for identifying illegal drug users, including testing on a controlled and carefully monitored basis.

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.

The Involvement of Employee Assistance Programs

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.

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.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault & Stalking

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.

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