Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Innovation in the Workplace: Evaluation of a Pilot Employee Assistance Program Serving Persons with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Innovation in the Workplace: Evaluation of a Pilot Employee Assistance Program Serving Persons with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Rehabilitation professionals serve individuals with disabilities in a variety of settings, including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). The number of rehabilitation professionals who practice in EAPs is not known, though Leahy, Chen and Saunders (2003) who sampled two groups of certified rehabilitation counselors (CRC) found that 10% and 11% were in private practice and 18% and 23% were in the other category, and EAPs may be found in either of these settings. The Employee Assistance Certification Commission offers two tracks for eligibility to sit for the Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) examination. Both tracks require education, work experience, continuing education credits and mentoring. The first is for EAP counselors without a graduate degree, and the second is for those with a graduate degree, which may include rehabilitation counseling (Employee Assistance Professionals Association, 2009). EAPs are a viable employment setting with potential for growth; many organizations across the country employing persons with disabilities are considering an EAP as a tool for employee retention.

The scope of EAPs has changed dramatically since their inception. Formerly known as Occupational Alcoholism Programs (OAPs), when they began in the 1960's, EAPs were designed to identify and treat persons with alcoholism (Hutchison and Emener, 1997). The concept was that, if troubled employees could be identified early, problems could be minimized and companies would be able to save money. These OAPs were so successful in terms of cost effectiveness, increased production, and job retention that interest grew in whether OAPs could help other employees (Lydecker, 1985). The Kemper Group in 1962 expanded its rehabilitation program for employees with alcoholism to include their family members and other troubled employees, and this became a landmark event in the evolution of EAPs (Masi, 1984), which make services available to all employees at a worksite.

Early identification, counseling and referral services remained the mainstay services of EAPs through the 1980s (Hutchison and Emener, 1997). Then, as EAPs proved to be cost beneficial (Finney, 1985; LeRoux, 1982; Roman, 1981), services became broader, and more companies became interested in developing EAPs. A seminal study in 1985 by the US Department of Health and Human Services (cited in Hartwell, Steele, French, Potter, Rodman, & Zarkin, 1996) found that 24% of companies with more than 50 employees offered an EAP. In 1988, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) conducted a more comprehensive study and found a greater prevalence of EAPs. While only 6.5 % of worksites offered EAPs, nearly 31% of all employees were covered by an EAP, and approximately 71% of companies >1,000 employees offered an EAP.

The prevalence of EAPs was also related to the type of industry or company. The 1988 DOL survey found that the communication and public utilities industries had the highest EAP coverage for employees (76%), low rates were found in the construction industry (11%), retail trade (17%), and wholesale trade (18%). However, these results were not surprising since these latter industries tend to be the smaller.

In the 1990s, Hartwell et al. (1996) found continual growth of EAPs in all US worksites: 33% of private, non-agricultural worksites with 50 or more employees had EAPs, compared to 24% in 1985. Most respondents indicated that they had formed their EAP within the past 5 years. The most dramatic EAP growth occurred in smaller worksites, those with 50-99 employees, which reported an increase of 74%. Nevertheless, larger companies continued to be the primary users of EAP services: 76% of companies that employed >1,000 employees, had EAPs. There was little variation due to geography.

Employee Assistance Programs have constantly changed to stay abreast of trends in the workplace. Lippman's (1999) article, This is not your Father's EAP, noted that EAPs had come a long way from their original focus on traditional work-related problems and emphasis on substance abuse. …

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