Personal and work-related stressors experienced by employees can result in substantial costs to employers in the form of employee absenteeism. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide an important vehicle to assist employees with behavioral health issues, personal concerns, and work-related problems that impact employee absenteeism. This study tested the impact of EAPs on reducing employee absenteeism utilizing a well-matched control group and human resource timecard data. The study recruited employees from 20 areas of state government and used a prospective, quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching. EAP (n = 145) users were matched to non-EAP (n = 145) users on baseline demographic, psychosocial, and work-related characteristics that differentiate the groups. Hours of sick time recorded were provided by human resource offices. Differences in sick leave usage were tested using mixed model repeated measures. A steeper decline in sick leave usage for EAP than non-EAP employees was found, with estimates of 4.8 to 6.5% fewer hours lost per month to illness. Further analysis found that EAP services were most effective in helping clients move from moderate to low levels of sick leave rather than in reducing sick leave for those experiencing chronic absenteeism. Research on the effectiveness of EAPs rarely utilizes well-matched control groups and frequently relies on self-reported outcomes. Using an objective measure of work time lost, this study provides empirical evidence that users of EAP services tend to reduce their absenteeism at a faster pace than non-EAP users experiencing similar challenges to maintaining productivity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Specifying a random variance component across persons for the time slope in a linear growth mixed model (rather than the repeated-measures first-order autoregressive process) gives nearly identical results.
Ames, G. M., & Bennett, J. B. (2011). Prevention interventions of alcohol problems in the workplace: A review and guiding framework. Alcohol Research & Health, 34(2), 175–179 Retrieved from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh342/175-187.htm.
Attridge, M. (2012). Employee assistance programs: Evidence and current trends. In R. J. Gatchel & I. Z. Schultz (Eds.), Handbook of Occupational Health and Wellness (pp. 441–467). New York, NY: Springer Science and Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4839-6_21.
Attridge, M. (2013, September). Workplace behavioral health and EAP services: Best practices and future trends. Presented at the American Psychological Association’s Work & Well-Being Conference, San Francisco, CO. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10713/3690
Attridge, M., Amaral, T., Bjornson, T., Goplerud, E., Herlihy, P., McPherson, T., … Teems, L. (2009). EAP effectiveness and ROI. EASNA Research Notes, 1(3), http://easna.org.
Avis, P. (2016). CBT: Not the only solution to stress. Occupational Health, 68(1), 23.
Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62(2), 341–356. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0001-8791(02)00030-1.
Barthold, R.O. & Ford, J.L. (2012, February 29). Paid sick leave: Prevalence, provision, and usage among full-time workers in private industry. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/paid-sick-leave-prevalence-provision-and-usage-among-full-time-workers-in-private-industry.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov 2015.
Cohen, S., Tyrrell, D. A., & Smith, A. P. (1991). Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. The New England Journal of Medicine, 325(9), 606–612. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199108293250903.
Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Doyle, W. J., Miller, G. E., Frank, E., Rabin, B. S., & Turner, R. B. (2012). Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(16), 5995–5999. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118355109.
Cooper, & Dewe. (2008). Well-being—absenteeism, presenteeism, costs and challenges. Occupational Medicine, 58, 522–524. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqn124.
Definitions of an employee assistance program (EAP) and EAP core technology. (2011). Retrieved March 12, 2017, from http://www.eapassn.org/About/About-Employee-Assistance/EAP-Definitions-and-Core-Technology.
Employee Assistance Society of North America. (2009). Selecting and strengthening employee assistance programs: A purchaser’s guide. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from http://www.easna.org/publications-research-notes/
Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Dunkel-Schetter, C., DeLongis, A., & Gruen, R. J. (1986). Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(5), 992–1003. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1682.
Goetzel, R. Z., Ozminkowski, R. J., Sederer, L. I., & Mark, T. L. (2002). The business case for quality mental health services: Why employers should care about the mental health and well-being of their employees. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 44(4), 320–330. https://doi.org/10.1097/00043764-200204000-00012.
Gosselin, E., Lemyre, L., & Corneil, W. (2013). Presenteeism and absenteeism: Differentiated understanding of related phenomena. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(1), 75–86. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030932.
Grandey, A. A., & Cropanzano, R. (1999). The conservation of resources model applied to work-family conflict and strain. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 54, 350–370. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.1998.1666.
Hargrave, G. E., Hiatt, D., Alexander, R., & Shaffer, I. A. (2008). EAP treatment impact on presenteeism and absenteeism: Implications for return on investment. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 23(3), 283–293. https://doi.org/10.1080/15555240802242999.
Harris, S. M., Adams, M., Hill, L., Morgan, M., & Soliz, C. (2002). Beyond customer satisfaction: A randomized EAP outcome study. Employee Assistance Quarterly, 17(4), 53–61. https://doi.org/10.1300/J022v17n04_05.
Harwood, H. J., & Reichman, M. B. (2000). The cost to employers of employee alcohol abuse: A review of the literature in the United States of America. Bulletin on Narcotics, LII(1–2). Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/bulletin/bulletin_2000-01-01_1_page005.html
Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524.
Kocakulah, M. C., Kelley, A. G., Mitchell, K. M., & Ruggieri, M. P. (2011). Absenteeism problems and costs: Causes, effects and cures. International Business & Economics Research Journal, 8(5), 81–88. 10.19030/iber.v8i5.3138.
Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B. W., O’Monahan, P., & Lowe, B. (2007). Anxiety disorders in primary care: Prevalence, impairment, comorbidity, and detection. Annuals of Internal Medicine, 6, 317–325.
Kroenke, K., Strine, T. W., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B. W., Berry, J. T., & Mokdad, A. H. (2009). The PHQ-8 as a measure of current depression in the general population. Journal of Affective Disorders, 114(1–3), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2008.06.026.
Langlieb, A. M., & Kahn, J. P. (2005). How much does quality mental health care profit employers? Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 47(11), 1099–1109. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.jom.0000177124.60460.25.
Lennox, R. D., Sharar, D., Schmitz, E., & Goehner, D. B. (2010). Development and validation of the Chestnut Global Partners Workplace Outcome Suite. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 25(2), 107–131. https://doi.org/10.1080/15555241003760995.
Lerner, D., & Henke, R. M. (2008). What does research tell us about depression, job performance, and work productivity? Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 50(4), 401–410. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0b013e31816bae50.
Macdonald, S., Wells, S., Lothian, S., & Shain, M. (2000). Absenteeism and other workplace indicators of employee assistance program clients and matched controls. Employee Assistance Quarterly, 15(3), 41–57. https://doi.org/10.1300/J022v15n03_04.
Mayfield, M. (2011, May 25). Health, wellness, and employee assistance: A holistic approach to employee benefits. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/health-wellness-and-employee-assistance-a-holistic-approach-to-employee-benefits.pdf.
McTernan, W. P., Dollard, M. F., & LaMontagne, A. D. (2013). Depression in the workplace: An economic cost analysis of depression-related productivity loss attributable to job strain and bullying. Work & Stress, 27(4), 321–338. https://doi.org/10.1080/02678373.2013.846948.
Niedhammer, I., Chastang, J. F., Taieb, H. S., Bermeylen, G., & Parent-Thirion, A. (2012). Psychosocial work factors and sickness absence in 31 countries in Europe. European Journal of Public Health, 23(4), 622–628. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/cks124.
Quinley, K. (2003). EAPs: A benefit than can trim your disability and absenteeism costs. Compensation & Benefits Report., 17, 6–8.
Richmond, M.K., Pampel, F.C., Wood, R.C., & Nunes, A.P. (2016). Impact of employee assistance services on depression, anxiety, and risky alcohol use. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000000744
Richmond, M.K., Pampel, F.C., Wood, R.C., & Nunes, A.P. (2017). The impact of employee assistance services on workplace outcomes: Results of a prospective, quasi-experimental study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(2):170–179. 10.1037/ocp0000018
Saunders, J. B., Aasland, O. G., Babor, T. F., De La Fuente, J. R., & Grant, M. (1993). Development of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): WHO collaborative project on early detection of persons with harmful alcohol consumption—II. Addiction, 88, 791–804. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.1993.tb02093.x.
Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7(2), 147–177. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.7.2.147.
Society for Human Resource Management. (2013). 2013 employee benefits: An overview of employee benefits offerings in the U.S. Alexandria, VA. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Documents/13-0245 2013_EmpBenefits_FNL.pdf.
Spetch, A., Howland, A., & Lowman, R. L. (2011). EAP utilization patterns and employee absenteeism: Results of an empirical, 3-year longitudinal study in a national Canadian retail corporation. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63(2), 110–128. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024690.
Taranowski, C. J., & Mahieu, K. M. (2013). Trends in employee assistance program implementation, structure, and utilization, 2009 to 2010. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 28(3), 172–191. https://doi.org/10.1080/15555240.2013.808068.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009). Access to wellness and employee assistance programs in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/access-to-wellness-and-employee-assistance-programs-in-the-united-states.pdf.
Valenstein, M., Vijan, S., Zeber, J. E., Boehm, K., & Buttar, A. (2001). The cost-utility of screening for depression in primary care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 134(5), 345–360 Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11242495.
Witters, D., & Liu, D. (2013). In U.S., poor health tied to big losses for all job types. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/162344/poor-health-tied-big-losses-job-types.aspx.
We thank Anthony Molieri for his support with data management. We also thank Paul Roman and Ron Manderscheid for their critical reviews and input on manuscript contents.
This study was funded by the Employee Assistance Research Foundation.
About this article
Cite this article
Nunes, A.P., Richmond, M.K., Pampel, F.C. et al. The Effect of Employee Assistance Services on Reductions in Employee Absenteeism. J Bus Psychol 33, 699–709 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-017-9518-5
- Employee assistance programs
- Work life issues