Employee Assistance Programmes: What You Should Know

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are benefits that some employers provide to their employees in order to provide them with access to short-term counseling or therapy services as well as some types of psychological assessments.

An EAP typically provides employees with a set number of sessions (usually less than six) with a therapist, with no copay or other out-of-pocket costs for the service.

Some larger corporations may have providers on staff who can provide therapy sessions through the EAP. However, many either offer direct payment to the employee’s preferred provider or contract with a specific agency to provide EAP sessions.

If you are considering therapy for your mental health, you can inquire with your employer about EAPs as a free service option.

Employee Assistance Programmes in History

The first EAPs were established in the United States in the 1930s as a resource for employees suffering from alcoholism. Businesses recognised that employees performed better when they had confidential resources to treat their drinking and began providing these resources as a benefit.

EAPs are frequently provided by businesses because increased access to services has been shown to reduce turnover and sick days while increasing employee satisfaction.1 Following times of stress or collective trauma, many employers increase EAP benefits, as we have seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employee Assistance Programme Types

Businesses can create internal EAPs or provide external EAPs. An internal EAP occurs when a company hires providers to provide EAP services to their employees, whereas an external EAP employs providers who are not affiliated with the organization. The tables below provide information on the benefits and drawbacks of these two types of EAPs.


  • Providers know the company inside and out and can better understand and relate to employee stressors and concerns.
  • If necessary, the therapist may have more authority to request accommodations for employees.
  • Providers employed by the organization may have more flexible and faster availability.
  • Employees are not required to locate referral information.


  • Providers may only work with employees as opposed to employees and their families.
  • Employees may be reluctant to speak with a therapist employed by their company.
  • Employees cannot choose their therapist if they have specific needs.
  • Companies may not employ diverse providers or those trained in various diagnoses and interventions.

External EAPs


  • Employees can more confidently trust that confidentiality will be maintained Providers may appear more unbiased as an outside source rather than a fellow employee
  • Employees may select any therapist who accepts EAP payments.
  • The EAP is more easily accessible to spouses and children.
  • After you have used your EAP sessions, external EAP providers may be able to continue seeing you for a sliding scale fee.


  • Many providers refuse to accept EAP plans.
  • Employees must locate their own provider.
  • Many service providers do not have any immediate openings.
  • The company does not vet providers for quality.

There are also organizations that offer EAP sessions specifically. These businesses hire or contract with therapists to provide care, as do businesses that want to provide EAPs to their employees.

Your therapist would not be directly employed by your boss in this case. However, depending on their contract, the therapist may not be able to provide you with ongoing care if you wish to continue therapy after using your EAP sessions.

Choosing the Best Employee Assistance Programme for Your Employees

The EAP industry is large in the United Kingdom. Companies spend over £50 million on them each year. It pays to choose your EAP provider carefully, and we’re here to help you do just that.

Some qualities to look for in an EAP provider include:

Do they provide consultation and training to managers in your organization so that they can better assist employees, educate them on EAPs, and encourage them to seek help?

  • How quickly can they provide assistance?
  • Do they assist you in monitoring the impact of the EAP on your organization?
  • Do they evaluate job performance, solicit feedback, and assess the effectiveness of their services?
  • How familiar are they with your industry and the problems that arise there?
  • Last but not least, how much does it cost?

There’s no denying that cost is an important consideration when selecting an EAP provider.

The most common method used by EAP providers is to charge on a ‘per person’ basis, which gives you a fixed cost based on the expected use of services.

Pricing EAPs ‘per call’ implies that there is a one-time setup fee. Then, for any calls to the EAP, you pay a set rate.

The appropriate pricing model is determined by the size of your organization and the amount you anticipate employees will use your EAP.

With our Employee Perks case study, you can learn more about the types of benefits your employees want.

Company Description:

Engage & Prosper is a UK based privately owned Employee Engagement Consultancy and Social Enterprise, on a mission to help organisations develop a highly productive and fulfilling workplace culture, with their people, through enhanced employee engagement strategies, fabulous and effective internal communications platforms and tailored reward and recognition programmes.