Return to Work

Using an EAP in the Return-to-Work Process

Worker operating machinery

Why use an EAP (Employee Assistance Program)?

The best time to use an employee assistance program (EAP) is whenever you encounter a situation that makes you stop and wonder, "How should I handle this?" You can use an EAP whenever you find yourself worrying about an employee's welfare or whenever someone's work is suffering because of personal concerns.

If you aren't using an EAP, the following possibilities are worth considering:

  • You might not respond properly to a situation.
  • You might overlook problems that can quickly become more serious.
  • You might provide less effective help to an employee in need.
  • You might waste valuable time trying to handle a situation alone.
  • You might underestimate the magnitude of an issue.
  • You might be focusing on an issue that really isn't the root problem.
     

Benefits of EAP

  • It's a private source of consultation, information, and assistance. 
  • It can relieve you of the burden of handling employee issues alone. 
  • It can provide expertise in areas you don't have. 
  • It can allow you to focus on your other job responsibilities. 
  • It can help you problem-solve and troubleshoot. 
  • It can offer you encouragement and support when you are dealing with difficult situations. 
  • It can help you create more satisfied and productive employees.
     

EAP assistance in the return-to-work process

If your company offers employee assistance counseling, an EAP counselor can help the manager and staff deal with disability absences and sensitive issues, such as:

  • Confidentiality and privacy concerns.
  • Workplace modifications and accommodation for the returning employee.
  • An employee dissatisfied with the transitional work.
  • Inconsistency in job performance after the employee's return to work.
  • Becoming inappropriately involved in an employee's well-being.

To read a guide on creating a successful return-to-work program, click here.
 

Resources typically available from an EAP

As a manager, you are often faced with sensitive situations involving disabled employees and their coworkers. If your company offers employee assistance counseling, an EAP counselor can be a resource to the manager and staff in dealing with disability absences.
 

Using an EAP when dealing with an employee returning to work from a disability can help when:

  • You are trying to help an employee who will be going on short-term disability, but you find yourself becoming inappropriately involved in the employee's well-being. 
     
    Example: The EAP can advise you on how to be supportive without violating the employee's privacy or becoming too involved in personal matters.
     
  • You are unsure how to modify the work environment for the returning employee. 
     
    Example: The EAP counselor can help with ideas for creating a quieter work environment for an employee who has difficulty with distractions.
     
  • You think an employee seems able to work, but the employee appears to be avoiding committing to a return-to-work date. 
     
    Example: The EAP counselor can help you understand the employee's fears about returning to the job and help the employee face those fears. 

Early intervention may help you to avoid a disability absence altogether. You can offer the EAP to an employee on an informal basis as a way to help deal with personal problems, even if the problems are not yet affecting the employee's performance.
 

Returning to work from a behavioral health disability

An employee might struggle with returning to work because of difficulties with peers or supervisors. Many people who are away from work for a period of time experience fears about returning.

If your company offers an employee assistance program, an EAP counselor can be a resource to the manager and staff in dealing with disability absences and sensitive issues, such as: 

  • Confidentiality and privacy concerns.
  • Workplace accommodations and modified or transitional work for the returning employee.
  • Coworker issues about changed workloads due to the employee's disability.
  • Becoming inappropriately involved in the employee's well-being.

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