The Employee Assistance Programme Office is discreetly tucked away and no sign indicates the nature of their business. When you go in, you wait for someone to come for you. When you leave, you leave by another door so that you do not meet another client as they are entering.
These are just some of the measures built into the programme to ensure clients have complete confidentiality.
The Employee Assistance Programme in Cayman was 17 years old last month and, perhaps because of the name, there is a perception that their counsellors only deal with work-related issues but they address any problem that affects a person’s work performance. Tyra Miller EAP programme director
Says, “The number one issue that many people are faced with are relationship difficulties, which can impact on an individual’s work or home life, whether marital, parenting or co-worker conflict.”
The EAP provides 60 companies, including government agencies, with its services, the expertise of four professional counsellors from diverse backgrounds and therapeutic models. Their services are available to not only to their member companies but also the wider Cayman community.
All the counsellors are expatriates as their Caymanian clients have specifically requested that they have no prior knowledge of personal or family history.
EAP is a worldwide organisation and research over the years has shown that counselling is a cost-effective exercise for companies as it reduces absenteeism.
Companies pay a yearly fee which entitles their employees to EAP services. The annual fee also covers their immediate family members.
Miller says, “We recognise that when family members are distressed, it is likely this will impact everyone living within the household.”
The majority of the clients they see, about 80 per cent, are self referral. A client’s employers need never know he or she has been to the EAP, as once a year the employer gets a report on the number of staff who attended that year but not their names.
If an employer refers an employee, it can be due to anything identified as affecting work performance – productivity, time management or absenteeism, for example.
How much help is needed can also vary. Sometimes all people need is someone to talk their problems over with while others might have reached a point where it has all become overwhelming.
One of the counsellors Emma Roberts, says that sometimes people may reach the point where they feel as if they can’t cope. “Often, there can be a string of stressful events then one seemingly minor incident happens that pushes the person to their limits. This is where as counsellors we support the client to deal with the immediate crisis, with the option of later at a more appropriate time exploring the issues which may have contributed to the problems developing.”
The relationship between client and counsellor is extremely important and the client needs to feel comfortable with them and the client always has the option of asking for a different counsellor until they find the “right fit”.
As part of their services to companies, they are also asked to respond to critical incidents. This service is included in the membership cost and involves EAP counsellors responding to any critical incident relating to a company such as; death of a co-worker, workplace violence, redundancy meetings to the aftermath of hurricanes.
The economic downturn has also an effect. Miller says, “Definitely we have seen an increase in clients since the economic downturn as financial worries often spill over into marital and relationship difficulties, it also causes stress which may lead to increased intake of alcohol and it has impacted parent and child relationships by way of not being able to afford all of the extras.”