German bank WestLB has brought in an employee assistance programme (EAP) to tackle stress and safeguard against claims and industrial action. The bank’s 1,000 UK-based staff can access support on issues such as work-life balance, anxiety, finances and health.
Julia Brooks, HR director, said that financial services can be a very hectic and stressful environment, adding: "It’s important that there are informal ways for people to get help." An EAP can also be a useful bargaining tool in stress complaints. "One of the underlying reasons [for introducing the scheme] would be that in any cases of stress at work you need to be able to show that you have offered employees as much help as you can," she said. The firm plans to deal with relevant issues one-by-one.
"We also want to bring in special focuses on things like healthcare and debt and gambling. You hear about all these guys gambling on the internet," she said. Brookes added that, while the EAP, provided by Ceridian Centrefile, cost £15,000 to put in, a more expensive measure was doubling the amount of paid paternity leave for new dads. Previously, the firm offered fathers one week off with full pay and one week at the government rate – now workers get two weeks leave on full pay.
"People weren’t taking it up, particularly as younger fathers tend to be more junior staff. They were taking up the first week and we felt they weren’t taking up the second because they couldn’t afford to take it at the government rate of about £100."