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ASSISTANCE & REPATRIATION REVIEW 2018


home support network and language or cultural barriers.


Why offer EAPs? EAPs are a longstanding offering that can support good mental health. Unfortunately, EAP benefits are not currently available universally. Mercer Marsh Benefits' 2016 research on medical trends around the world revealed that 34 per cent of employers surveyed offer no access to personal counselling in their standard medical plans for employees. Furthermore, there are also regional disparities in employer interest in expanding mental health coverage. Reluctance in certain areas is, in part, because employers and IPMI brokers are anticipating increased costs as a result of employees experiencing workplace or personal stress. Offering EAPs more universally would be a positive step. However, employers also have an important role to play not solely in providing these services, but in promoting EAPs as wellness and prevention measures, not just as problem-solving initiatives. Of course, there will always be workers who need help solving problems, but we have found that effective behavioural therapy programmes that provide people with coping techniques can often forestall problems – just


as regular medical consultations can often reduce the need for surgery. Removing the stigma attached to seeking help could also do much to convince more workers to utilise this important benefit. Employers should also deploy programmes and policies that support a more beneficial work-life balance, which can reduce stress for all workers. Tese include family leave policies, onsite fitness and childcare facilities, flexible work scheduling, and programmes on everything from nutrition to stopping smoking.


Essential aspects of an effective EAP While EAPs vary among benefits providers and employers, effective EAPs have a few essential aspects: • Tey offer telephone support to workers dealing with a variety of issues, including work-related stress, substance abuse and adjustment to major life events.


• Employees typically have 24-hour access to counsellors who can make referrals to local professionals if required.


• Full confidentiality is maintained and employers never learn which workers have used the service or what has been discussed. Tese aspects can have a major impact on utilisation. For example,


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| 9 International Travel & Health Insurance Journal


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