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Two in Five U.S. Workers Don’t Know Purpose of Employee Assistance Programs

TELUS Health’s monthly Mental Health Index reveals that two in five workers in the U.S. are unfamiliar with the purpose of an employee assistance program (EAP) and what it offers. Despite no cost to workers, 24% of employees surveyed cite cost as a major barrier in using EAPs. Workers who reported being familiar with an EAP and what it offers had a higher mental health score than those do did not.

The Index finds that 33% of workers are familiar with EAPs, while 29% of workers have heard of them but don’t know what they offer. Employees who do know what an EAP is and what it offers have a mental health score of 73.7, four points higher than workers who are unfamiliar with EAPs (69.7).

Among workers who would not use an EAP or are uncertain about the program’s offerings, 34% of workers do not know what EAPs cover, while 21% of workers are concerned about confidentiality, and 20% are unsure of how to access the service.

“Employee assistance programs provide a wealth of mental health resources and support for employees and their families, but the fact that 38% of workers don’t understand the purpose of these programs creates a significant gap in utilization,” said Juggy Sihota, chief growth officer, TELUS Health. “While EAPs have existed for a long time, we also cannot assume employees understand how to access or use them. Companies can demonstrate stronger support for their employees’ well-being by offering a steady stream of education and information about EAPs to address this gap, to help drive utilization and to increase productivity.”

Perceived Affordability Impacting Workers’ Access to EAPs

Workers who said that they were concerned about the cost of an EAP had a mental health score of 62.9. The mental health scores of employees reporting affordability as a barrier to accessing mental health support is 24 points lower than workers reporting no barriers and 13 points below the national average.

Employees under 40 are two times more likely than workers over 50 to have reported affordability as a barrier to accessing mental health support. Workers earning under $100,000 per year are 70% more likely to not use an EAP due to cost concerns than those earning more than $100,000 per year.

The Mental Health Index reveals that there is a significant disparity between workers’ perceptions of their access to benefits and the reality of the situation. Despite 62% of workers stating that they do not have access to an EAP, a survey conducted this year by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans revealed that 81% of U.S. employers were offering an EAP.

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