The Effect of Employee Assistance Services on Reductions in Employee Absenteeism

Abstract

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.

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Notes

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    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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Funding

This study was funded by the Employee Assistance Research Foundation.

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Correspondence to Ana P. Nunes.

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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

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Keywords

  • Employee assistance programs
  • Absenteeism
  • Stress
  • Well-being
  • Work life issues