General: What is an employee assistance program (EAP)?

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An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee's performance. EAPs traditionally have assisted workers with issues like alcohol or substance abuse; however, most now cover a broad range of issues such as child or elder care, relationship challenges, financial or legal problems, wellness matters and traumatic events like workplace violence. Programs are delivered at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans. Services are often delivered via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, e-mail interactions or face-to-face.

An EAP may also include a wide array of other services, such as nurse advice lines, basic legal assistance or adoption assistance. EAP services are usually made available not only to the employee but also to the employee's spouse, children and non-marital partner living in the same household as the employee.   

EAPs that offer medical benefits such as direct counseling and treatment rather than just referrals for counseling and treatment are regulated under ERISA and subject to COBRA.

Information on requiring an employee to use the services of an EAP is found here.


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