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What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
  • An employee assistance program (EAP) provides confidential counseling and referrals to employees and their families dealing with personal problems.
  • Referrals to an EAP may be informal or formal.
  • A formal referral, such as anger management courses, must be considered paid hours.

An EAP provides a confidential counseling and referral service to employees and their families for dealing with personal problems. These problems may include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Marital and family difficulties
  • Financial or legal problems
  • Emotional and stress difficulties

The EAP represents an alternative that will help both the employee and the supervisor address personal problems which may affect job performance.

Referrals to an EAP (or to community resources, if an EAP is not available) may be formal or informal. An informal referral may not involve much more than letting employees know that assistance is available, and that taking advantage of the program may help them resolve personal problems—which not only helps employees, but should help address the impacts on the workplace.

A formal referral might require the employee to attend counseling sessions, perhaps even as a condition of continued employment. For example, if an employee has regular conflict with coworkers, anger management counseling or conflict resolution courses might be required as part of the disciplinary process.

Keep in mind that if an employee is mandated to attend counseling as a condition of employment, that time will have to be considered paid working time. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, “hours worked” generally includes all time spent acting under the direction or control of the company.