Last reviewed 24 April 2020

An EAP — an employee assistance programme — is one of the benefits that can be offered to employees to support them in challenging times. But how much do employee assistance programmes cost, and are they worth it?

What is an EAP?

An employee assistance programme, or EAP as it is more commonly known, is an employee benefit programme designed to support employers and employees.

The programme provides employees with confidential counselling support to help deal with problems that might affect their work performance, health or wellbeing. EAPs generally include assessment, short-term counselling or specialist advice and, if required, referral services for the employees and their immediate family.

An EAP has been found to be the most effective approach when it comes to helping employees overcome the challenges of work and home life.

It is also proven to be cost-effective as it tackles the issues that could result in short or long-term absences, either of which could have an adverse effect on the business.

For employers considering investing in an EAP, there are a variety of providers and EAP pricing models available.

But in order to put the cost of an EAP in context, it is worth considering the cost of workplace absences.

The cost of absences

To get the most accurate idea of the price of employee absences, organisations should consider the direct and indirect costs.

The direct costs include paying the salary of an absent employee and paying for someone else to do their job while they are off, while the indirect costs include the time taken to find a replacement and for that replacement to become productive in their new role. You'll also need to consider the time spent by other employees to arrange and supervise cover, conducting return to work interviews, attending capability meetings, etc.

With all the above in mind, in 2017 the Office of National Statistics (ONS) put the average number of sick days taken by employees that year at 4.1 days. A 2018 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) estimated the cost of these absences at £554 per employee. Remember that employees often report sick days taken for mental ill health or stress issues as being for physical ill health.

Considering the figures above, it's no wonder employers are now taking steps to address the causes of these absences.

How much does EAP service cost?

The cost of an EAP depends on a variety of factors including the type of programme, the number of employees, the industry you're in and the essential components you require.

There are a number of different approaches to EAP pricing. While some providers charge "per use" or "per call", other providers charge on a "per employee" basis.

The "per use" model often offers services such as telephone support and online resources for a fixed monthly fee and then applies additional charges for other services such as face-to-face counselling as and when they're used.

The "per call" model offers EAP services cost at a fixed cost and then charges employers an additional flat rate for every call their employees make to the EAP.

The most popular, however, are providers that charge per employee in the UK. This option allows organisations to source an EAP at a fixed price per employee based on the expected use of the service. By knowing the exact EAP cost from the start, organisations can better plan financially.

The Employee Assistance Programme Association (EAPA), a non-profit association representing the interests of individuals and organisations concerned with EAPs, puts the average running charge of an EAP at £14 per employee per year.

Its research suggests an employer with 500 employees can pay as little as £8 per employee per year. EAPA goes on to point out that the telephone-only counselling service for 2000 employees could work out to around £3.50 per employee per year.

Although the above is a general estimate, it might be worth checking out the EAPA EAP calculator and ROI tool to get an estimate of what you'll be spending.

Comparing the cost of EAPs to the costs of absences and lost productivity, the price of the employee assistance programme becomes a worthwhile investment.

You can also check out the EAP pricing page to where we base our estimate on the number of employees you have and the package you're interested in.

As the most trusted health and wellbeing network in the UK and Ireland, our services make a positive difference in the lives of over 11 million people. Our award winning innovations include a state of the art iOS and Android app, an online portal, 24-hour telephone support and counselling either online, by phone or in person.

Health Assured

Health Assured offers the most comprehensive employee assistance programme available today. Health Assured high quality counselling and specialist work-life support is delivered through an in-house team of 60 BACP accredited counsellors, supported by a network over more than 1650 active counsellors across the UK, with access to a further 4500 BACP counsellors. Their specialist service supports 9 million people throughout the UK, handling over 300,000 calls a year.

See www.healthassured.org.

Further information

For detailed advice and best practice see:

  • your Wellbeing topic

  • the Managing Wellbeing Toolkit.