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Employee & Student Assistance Program, Business Coaching, & Human Resources
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Employee Assistance Program Referral 101

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How to refer, use, and integrate Employee Assistance Programming:

Lately we have met many clients, employees, employers, and Human Resources Professionals that have questions on how to access EAP either as an employee or referring an employee due to various circumstances and causes. We wanted to create this post to help give clarification and answer questions that have been coming in.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are designed to support employees who have personal or professional issues in the workplace, such as stress, depression or anxiety.  EAP gives the employee an opportunity to improve their performance by focusing on the underlying issues often caused by outside stressors. 

However, employers should be aware that there are different types of referrals and understand the legal nuances associated with them.   Addressing mental health or workplace conflict should be supported by a professional and reliable EAP that understands how to navigate laws that govern employers in the area of mental health.  

Traditionally there are three types of referrals to EAP:

  • Self-referral. Employees or family members contact the EAP directly.

  • Informal. A friend or colleague (who may or may not have used an EAP) suggests the EAP to the employee and recommends its use.

  • Formal or Mandatory. Based on observation, a supervisor, manager or HR professional recommends the EAP to an employee. Such a referral may be mandatory due to poor performance or disciplinary actions.  A formal referral based on discipline or performance creates specific legal considerations for the employer.

Formal or mandatory referrals to an EAP, is when the employer provides a written referral for the employee based on specific performance issues.  Employers should focus on the job performance and discipline employees according to their established performance and conduct standards.

Posted here, on our site, is a link for a checklist and guidelines to help you further navigate these scenarios. Additionally, you can email Northstar for an updated Mandatory Referral Form. Using these specific forms for these referrals is important to both appropriately document the situation and provide the correct contact information.

The EAP is also available to the supervisor to discuss the situation and consult about how to approach the employee and to review available EAP resources. We encourage organizations to contact the EAP any time to discuss questions or concerns about resources and responding to employee needs.


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