4 Considerations for Managers When Referring to an EAP

Managers and supervisors are often in the best position to spot an employee who is struggling with a personal or work issue. A supervisory referral to the EAP may be formal or informal. In both cases, a referral to the EAP may be the most helpful action to take when someone is struggling on the job.  Here are 4 considerations:

  1. An informal supervisory referral occurs when a manager mentions the availability of the EAP to an employee. Examples of these referrals include a manager saying, “Are you aware that we have an EAP?” or, “Have you thought about calling the EAP to get some help for your problem?” Follow-up on these statements in subsequent weeks is important.
  2. A formal supervisory referral most often occurs when there is a documented performance issue and disciplinary action is needed. The employee must be made aware of this process from the beginning.
  3. Few supervisory referrals are mandatory. Mandatory referrals must be supported by a strong company policy and are only used when there are safety sensitive situations. In most cases, managers may “strongly suggest” the EAP during progressive discipline, but it should be the employee’s choice to use the EAP.
  4. When a manager is considering a referral, a heads-up to the EAP is strongly encouraged. It gives the EAP and the manager an opportunity to discuss the situation and plan next steps. For example, the manager can be coached on how to talk with the employee about about signing a release of information.

Partnering with an EAP on a successful referral can be one of the most gratifying events in a manager’s professional life. There is really nothing more rewarding than connecting an employee with the right help at the right time. Managers have the opportunity to prevent a problem from becoming bigger, or perhaps even save a life, by helping an employee receive appropriate help.


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