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EAPs: Great Benefits for Small Employers

Posted by Joe Antle on February 10, 2020 6:50 AM EST
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Are EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) growing in the small employer.... to the extent that EAPs are being adopted in the large employer marketplace?


The benefits of EAPs convey regardless of size of company, yet small businesses are less likely to offer them than their larger counterparts, even though research by the National Small Business Association indicates that 42 percent of small business owners report that, when it comes to overall productivity and employee health, high stress levels are the greatest concern. There are strategies small businesses can use to offer EAP services, for example, by banding together to negotiate for better prices. Business membership groups such as chambers of commerce or trade associations may be of assistance in this regard. In fact, providing employee assistance in the small business environment can be especially important, given that decreased productivity or absence of even one employee can have significant effects across an organization.

For small employers, securing EAP services through a small-business EAP consortium can prove financially beneficial. The pricing is based on the services available through the consortium, but the total number of covered employees in the consortium drives down the per-employee cost.  And the consortium in effect becomes a marketing ally of the EAP.


EAP Average Cost by Employer Size

Size of Employer

Average EAP Cost
(Per employee per year)

1-25 Employees


25-100 Employees


101-250 Employees


Data source:


Offering an EAP isn’t going to do much good for an employer or its employees, unless someone explains how it works. Employers will need to provide training to educate their employees on what an EAP program is, how it works and how they can access services.  The biggest fear employees might have is a concern that somehow the employer will know what they talk to the counselor about, or that they will get fired if you somehow find out they have a mental health or addiction problem.  Employees will have many questions once you launch your EAP. It may take several reassurances to convince them to trust the EAP program. Here are common questions they may have and sample responses.

SMB Employee FAQs: 

  • Is it confidential? (Yes. No employee specific information is shared with employer.)
  • Do I have to pay? (No, EAP counseling and referrals are free services to the employee.)
  • How do I know it’s confidential? (Counselors are required to maintain confidentiality.)
  • Will they report issues to you, like drug addiction? (Yes, in aggregate only. No names.)
  • If my manager recommends that I use the EAP, do I have to use it? (No, but since managers don’t have a counseling background, they might encourage you to seek the help of an expert.)
  • How do I contact the EAP? (Provide the EAP contact phone number or website.)

A best practice is to create a flyer or handout with the name of the EAP, the contact phone number, and information on what kinds of services the EAP provides. Then offer a short training session to educate them on the EAP. Make sure employees know that EAP counselors maintain strict confidentiality, and they only report basic information back to the employer such as number and types of referrals/contacts. No specific employee information is shared.

The smallest employers may have trouble convincing employees that an EAP is confidential. That’s because the employer will typically get a report from the EAP showing demographic data such as the number of employees seeking services, what kinds of services they seek (financial, legal, mental health), what state they’re in, and the job level of employees seeking services (staff, manager, executive).

At a large employer this data isn’t a problem, but employees in a smaller company may fear that you will be able to deduce from the EAP reports, who is seeking services — especially if they’re the only person in a given ‘state’ with a ‘manager-level’ job.

Tips for Employers

  • Clearly define the scope of EAP services your organization will cover and thoroughly communicate these to managers, employees and family members
  • Be proactive in managing EAPs programs to ensure high quality and relevant services
  • Actively coordinate the roles and responsibilities of EAP with other health and productivity programs
  • Utilize EAP’s organizational services to support human resources and disability management functions
  • Discuss ways to analyze EAP performance, including validated outcomes measurement tools
  • Consider re-naming and re-branding the EAP to highlight the EAP as more than a counseling service, but rather one that can support employee and family issues and concerns objectively
  • Promote alternative counseling methods, such as telephonic, to assist employees and family members with time or transportation constraints.
  • Consider conducting periodic intake and/or case assessments to evaluate the quality of the member experience.



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