EAPA UK has discovered that EAP usage in the UK has now hit a new record high. This is due to a multitude of reasons!
“New figures on EAP usage show record highs in 2022. And now, EAP providers are predicting a massive fall-out from the cost-of-living crisis still to come, with the initial rush for advice on finances being followed by more complex requests for support around relationships issues and psychological wellbeing. Unprecedented demand and complexity. EAPs were never intended to be an emergency mental health service.
There has been no sign of any ‘return to normality’ in the 2022 EAP data (based on more than 4,100 calculations made via the EAPA UK ROI calculator [[www.eapa.org.uk/roi-calculator]] since the beginning of 2019, including more than 1,000 calculations in 2022), representing anonymised information from 11 million employees. In the post-pandemic workplace, even more employees are making use of their EAP: the average usage figure during 2022 topped 12%, compared with 11.4% last year (and the typical average from previous years of 10.4%). As a consequence, organisations are reporting more savings (an average of £10.86 per £1.00 spent) in terms of reduced staff absence and gains in productivity.
The question for HR is: are current EAP offerings and services — originally designed purely to deal with providing straightforward advice — up to coping with the job?
The cost-of-living crisis; political and economic instabilities; climate change; remote working routines. All of these factors, alongside the ongoing fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on work and home lives, have combined to undermine the foundations of mental wellbeing in the UK workforce. Employees are more likely to be feeling a lack of control. They are more aware of the importance of mental health than ever before, more self-reflective and willing to speak up.
The increasing reliance on EAP support isn’t confined to a particular region of the UK, some business sectors or type of organisation. The demand is coming from everywhere. And notably, the pattern of calls has changed. Whereas there used to be known peaks on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings — now the peaks can come at anytime.
What’s hidden in the headline figures of usage and ROI is the nature of the calls. Our members are telling us that EAPs are receiving more complex, longer and more intense calls on a regular basis. They also inform us that there has been a significant increases in referrals from GPs due to NHS waiting times for access to mental health support (which can be more than two years). The majority of calls received by EAPs continue to be due to anxiety and depression. Worryingly, a growing proportion include an element of ‘risk’ to the employee — meaning they are in danger of self-harm or harm of some kind and need immediate support to ensure their safety. Given the cost-of-living crisis, there has been a sharp increase in callers asking for advice on finance and debt (especially around utility bills and long-term contracts for services such as smartphones) as well as legal advice around insolvency. And we are seeing only the beginning of the fall-out from cost-of-living pressures. 2023 will be a year of drastic pressures for many more employees.
Employees want immediate, practical and professional support. Which is why, in our new reality of shocks and challenges, EAPs are at the heart of the response.
In spite of the shocks of Covid-19 and a new accumulation of worries and pressures on employees, the UK’s providers are standing up to the test. Services have evolved; delivery has stayed robust. There is more effective triage of cases. Digital resources have been adopted where appropriate, but always on the principle that human contact is what makes an EAP so valuable. Providers are expanding and recruiting successfully; new initiatives have been launched to train more counselling staff
What the changing nature of demand on EAPs has illustrated most clearly is the importance to employers and their HR teams of a full service and access to counselling. Having the right EAP offering, an HR champion focused on active promotion, leads to increased ROI and impact for the organisation.
EAPs need to be set up and optimised to act as a pillar of a healthy and resilient organisational culture. Forward-looking employers will be looking to their EAP provider as a strategic partner on mental wellbeing.
Eugene Farrell, chair, Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA UK). The 2023 report, Financial returns on EAPs 2023: managing the rise of complexity and employees at risk, can be downloaded from www.eapa.org.uk.”