Although Westminster City Council cannot attribute a fall in absence rates entirely to its employee assistance programme, it believes the 24-hour helpline has had an impact.
Since the EAP was introduced in May 2006, sickness absence rates have fallen from an average of 10 to eight-and-a-half days.
While Trevor Webster, strategic HR manager at the council, believes the monthly reports that its EAP provider sends back to the council can sometimes be useful, he thinks the fact employees are not identified limits the degree of action the organisation can take to solve any problems.
“Although [confidentiality] is a strength, at the same time, it has limitations. For example, if one of our employees called into the EAP and said they are being bullied, it can be difficult for us to do anything in that specific case, although we can review our policy when necessary,” says Webster.
However, he is satisfied that the council’s EAP is able to respond to issues raised by employees that it is not equipped to deal with, such as the need for treatment of physical illnesses, by referring staff on to the appropriate service provider.
“It depends on the provider, but ours is good at referring the problem on to others. It is important for an employer to know just what its EAP provider can actually do,” adds Webster.