Q: How does an employer go about using the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address an employee’s performance problems that may be related to issues outside of work?
A: The employer should contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) directly and request a review of the process for making referrals. In general, during the implementation process, the EAP provides the contracting employer with that information so that employees and employers have a clear understanding of the services the EAP can offer employees and the process by which the employer can make referrals to the service. This service typically includes employer assistance so that employers may communicate directly with the EAP counselor to provide a “heads up” to the counselor regarding the performance issue and obtain guidance for handling the discussion with the employee. Then the employer can have the performance discussion and refer the employee to the EAP as part of the action plan for performance improvement. Discussions between the employee and the EAP are confidential, and the employer should not expect feedback from the EAP regarding those discussions.
While the employer can make the referral, it is ultimately an employee’s choice whether or not to contact and work with the EAP. If the employee chooses not to seek help or address the issue that led to the referral in the first place and performance does not improve, then the employer should follow its progressive disciplinary process, including corrective action up to and including termination of employment.
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