SOURCE: Aon Hewitt

Aon Hewitt

June 10, 2015 13:22 ET

What's the Value of an Employee Assistance Program? Employers Aren't Sure

New Survey by Aon Hewitt Finds Canadian Employers Have Difficulty Quantifying EAP's Value

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - June 10, 2015) - Aon plc (NYSE: AON), the leading global provider of risk management and human resource consulting and outsourcing, today released results of a new survey that finds Canadian employers face difficulty evaluating the impact of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). A successful EAP can increase engagement and productivity by helping employees and their family members resolve problems affecting their well-being, but the survey found that many Canadian employers are unsure of how an EAP advances their overall organizational objectives.

Aon Hewitt's survey of more than 130 organizations gauged employers' views on how the success of an EAP or an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is evaluated and how well these programs align with broader business objectives. Widely offered by Canadian employers, EAPs provide counselling and support services to employees and their families facing life challenges such as marital breakdown, addiction, illness, psychological issues, or difficulties related to balancing work and non-work activities, such as childcare and eldercare. When implemented as part of an organization's people and risk strategy, these programs can have a number of positive outcomes, including higher employee engagement, higher productivity and reduced costs related to absence and illness.

While more than 90 percent of respondents have an EAP in place, the survey found that only a quarter believe these programs to be an inseparable part of their comprehensive strategy. On the contrary, nearly 40 percent say their EAPs are just part of a standard benefits offer, while almost as many (37 percent) say these programs are not fully integrated with their people/risk strategies.

"Clearly, there are opportunities for organizations to better integrate health programs, including EAP, into their overall health and benefits offering," said Michael Kennedy, Vice President, National Leader of Health and Wellness Strategies at Aon Hewitt. "Employers see some programs as more strategic and others less so. Many, however, are also struggling with how to effectively evaluate EAPs and don't see the value of integrating these programs into overall people strategies because they don't know how to measure their effectiveness."

While more than four in five (89 percent) review utilization data at least annually and more than half say they try to determine value for money spent, 84 percent are either not at all confident or only moderately confident in their ability to determine the value of EAPs to their organization. Further, only 40 percent are benchmarking their program experience against that of other organizations, and only 35 percent are currently applying utilization data to support strategic organizational goals.

The Aon Hewitt survey showed that while the vast majority of employers believe EAPs provide benefits to employee and business health, most identify the positive impacts as occurring in areas that are more difficult to directly measure. More than 90 percent say EAPs have a positive influence on employee/family health and well-being; a smaller majority say the programs improve employee productivity (53 percent) and reduce indirect costs such as absenteeism (61 percent) and presenteeism (present at work, but not productive). However, fewer than half (45 percent) say that EAPs reduce direct costs such as use of health benefit plans; only 36 percent believe they increase employee engagement; and fewer than a third (30 percent) say EAPs enhance business results.

The survey results also indicated that some EAP offerings are missing the mark. "Plan sponsors were quite clear," noted George Shipley, Vice President and Canadian National Commercial Leader, Health and Benefits, Aon Hewitt. "Over 80 percent wanted their EAP provider to offer counselling, but only 13 percent wanted their provider to offer wellness solutions such as fitness, nutrition or naturopathic. The fact that many EAPs offer these resources may lead to misalignment with plan sponsor priorities. Plan sponsors can reduce this risk by establishing priorities and ensuring all vendors are aligned with them."

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is a leading global provider of risk management, insurance brokerage and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 69,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative risk and people solutions. For further information on our capabilities and to learn how we empower results for clients, please visit: http://aon.mediaroom.com.

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