EAPs Face Upsurge in Calls from Stressed-Out Employees

By Stephen Miller Mar 2, 2009

Requests for financial counselling and consultation — as measured by call volumes — are rising at a rate twice that of all other employee assistance program (EAP) services, according to a new report by the research affiliate of Shepell·fgi, a Canadian-based EAP services provider. The study analyzed EAP use by employees at organizations throughout Canada.

This trend appears to be increasing as well, with a 13 percent higher rate of EAP requests for services relating to financial issues in late 2008 (August to December) vs. the same time frame in 2007. This indicates that employees are using EAPs increasingly for support and guidance, according to Financial Distress Impacts Health and Productivity, a report by Shepell·fgi Research Group.

Leading Financial Issues Addressed by EAPs in 2008



Financial planning




Financial stress (situational)




Source: Shepell fgi Research Group (study of Canadian EAPs).

The data show significant increases in all five of the above areas when compared to 2007. According to the report, in 2008 there was a:

30.3 percent increase in cases related to collections issues.

20.3 percent increase in creditor problems.

24.4 percent increase in bankruptcy issues.

41 percent increase for financial counselling related to divorce.

Proportionally, these key areas have grown since 2007, as the following graph illustrates.


The report shows that almost twice as many Canadian women as men are accessing EAPs for financial issues (65 percent vs. 35 percent).

Stress Affects Productivity and Health

“Organizations need to focus on preventing the impact of serious financial stress, engaging their employees, and helping employees stay healthy and productive,” saysRod Phillips, president and CEO of Shepell·fgi. Employers can lessen the impact of lost productivity and prevent disability claims attributable to stress and conflict in the workplace by promoting their EAP services and making sure managers have access to the right tools and support, he advises.

Adds Paula Allen, vice president of the health solutions and research group at Shepell·fgi, “Research shows that workers in financial stress are absent from work more frequently, receive poor performance ratings from their supervisors, spend excessive time at work dealing with their financial problems and experience a decline in job productivity."

Phillips and Allen recommended taking steps to lessen the effects of financial stress. These include:

1. Offering workplace-based financial education programs to help employees understand and cope with the economic downturn, and to foster an atmosphere of good financial wellness and worker productivity.

2. Promoting use of EAP financial counseling and consultation services to help reduce the incidence of serious financial stress that can take a significant toll on employees and their employers.

3. Understanding the connection between healthy, productive employees and lower costs for disability and absenteeism.

Help Employees Stay Healthy and Resilient

On this latter point, Allen adds that it's common during highly stressful times for individual health and well-being to suffer, which negatively impacts employees' ability to cope significantly. “During economic downturns, there is an increase in disability rates,” she says. "Encouraging the adoption of healthy coping behaviors, and offering high-quality health and wellness programs and services, can help to ensure that employees are better able to withstand a stressful time," she notes.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Address Financial Ills to Reduce Other Workplace Problems, SHRM Online Employee Relations Discipline, June 2008

Three Out of Four Employees Are Financially Stressed, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2008

Countering the High Cost of Stress and Depression, SHRM Benefits Discipline, May 2007

EAP's: HR Tool to Address Top Issues in Today's Workplace, SHRM Research, September 2004

Employee Assistance Programs: What Does HR Need to Know?, SHRM Research, May 2003

Buying an Employee Assistance Program with Your Eyes Open, SHRM Research, November 2001

Related Resource: External

An Employer’s Guide to Employee Assistance Programs, National Business Group on Health, December 2008

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