How Does an Employee Assistance Programme help SMEs?

Published on March 16, 2022 by Lyndsey McLaughlin

How can an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) also help your business? HR consultant Lyndsey McLaughlin explains what an EAP can provide and how it can help staff and the business thrive.

Businesses are built on good employees. Without them, there would be no business, and therefore you must look after them. Thus, even SMEs need to take practical steps to ensure their employees are happy within the workplace. One way of doing this is by offering an employee assistance programme.

What is an employee assistance programme?

Employees are not robots. They are humans with a personal life, feelings, emotions, and their own problems. An employee assistance programme is comprised of benefits that are designed to help employees with both personal or work-related issues that may be affecting their wellbeing or performance at work. There are many types of employee assistance programmes or aspects to an employee assistance programme, such as:

Stress management

According to the Health and Safety Executive data, 82,000 of workers in the UK were suffering from stress due to work in 2020/21. It’s not only work that leads to stress and anxiety, though. Personal issues, such as financial worries, can also lead to stress. With stress management, employees can become equipped with the tools they need to manage their stress levels more successfully.

Mental health issues

There has been a lot of stigma relating to mental health. Thankfully though, we are becoming more informed on mental health, and with 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering from mental health issues, employers need to support employees. An EAP will help employees discover the root cause of their mental health issues and gain help from experts to manage these feelings.

Addiction support

Addiction to alcohol and drugs is more common than we would believe, and these types of addictions are bound to spill over into the workplace. With an EAP, employees can receive support for their addictions and get into recovery with the help of experts.

Domestic violence

It is often an issue that people don’t want to discuss, but domestic violence is a significant problem in our society. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 2.3 million adults were subjected to domestic violence in the 12 months up to March 2020. An EAP can help support employees through intervention and legal advice.

There is a range of other employee assistance programmes, including relationships, family services, and caregiving.

How much does an employee assistance programme cost?

How much does an employee assistance program cost

Various factors affect the cost of an EAP. The cost will depend on the type of programme you opt for, the number of employees you have, and your industry. Depending on the provider you choose, you can use different pricing models for your EAP. For example, there is “per call,” where you are charged a fixed price and additional charges every time an employee calls.

Another option is “per use,” which comprises a monthly fee, plus additional charges for other services. Most employers use the per-employee model, and the average cost in the UK is £14 per employee per year. It makes more sense for SMEs to use this model, as otherwise, you may end up paying much more than what you are likely to use.

Benefits of employee assistance programmes for small businesses

As an SME, you may consider programmes such as an EAP to incur costs you don’t need. However, SMEs can benefit from introducing an EAP in many ways.

Reduce absenteeism

Small businesses can’t afford to withstand the cost of high absenteeism. With an EAP in place, absenteeism is likely to be reduced as employees have the support they need for any issues they might be dealing with. They are likely to be happier at work and less likely to phone in sick.

Track staff absence accurately and have access to securely stored, comprehensive sickness records with an online staff absence management system.

absence management software

Higher retention

When employees feel valued, they are less likely to want to leave. If you introduce an EAP into your business, your employees will feel supported and, therefore, more likely to think they want to stay. To be successful, SMEs need to have loyal employees in place as they grow.


SMEs often don’t have the resources to be able to hire an HR team or provide occupational therapy support. These things can be costly. However, with an EAP in place, employees will always receive the support they need whenever they need it. Therefore, it can be more cost-effective than bringing in additional staff that you would need to pay a salary, even though you are only likely to need them intermittently.

An EAP can be a great addition to your business, especially for an SME that may not have the resources to be able to support employees as much as you might like.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

An employer’s guide to the employee life cycle

The psychological contract at work: what it is and why it matters

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Written by Lyndsey McLaughlin

Lyndsey McLaughlin is a CIPD qualified HR consultant and recruitment professional who specialises in HR advice and writing about a range of business and staff management topics for employers and managers.

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