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When is the best time to refer an employee to the EAP?

Early -- as soon as you detect the warning signals of a personal problem such as absenteeism, chronic lateness, personality change, decline in work quality, or unusual behavior or appearance. 

Don't delay in talking with the employee about your concerns; early intervention may help prevent the employee's personal problem from getting worse.  Don't tread water by accepting excuses from the troubled employee; early identification helps you avoid having to deal with poor job performance over a long period of time.

Explain that, as a regular practice, the EAP is offered to all employees who experience work performance difficulties. Remind the employee that use of the EAP is confidential and strictly voluntary. Express your belief that the EAP could be beneficial.

Even if you have not observed job performance problems, you can refer to the EAP when you are concerned about an employee’s well being, when a situation concerns or troubles you, and before job performance is seriously affected.

What is an effective way to refer an employee to the EAP?

Explain that the EAP is a confidential short-term problem-solving and referral service.  State that it is voluntary. If the employee chooses not to accept assistance, the manager should emphasize the employer’s expectation for improved job performance and consequences for failure. Refusal to use the EAP is not, in itself, a cause for disciplinary action.

Offer to help arrange an appointment for the employee. However, make sure the employee understands it is an offer, not a mandate. State that the EAP is private and confidential, that what is discussed with the EAP counselor is confidential unless the employee signs a release. 

It is supportive to remind employees that everyone needs some help once in awhile, and that the EAP provides consultation to help employees get "unstuck" when extraordinary problems interrupt their successful ways of coping with everyday life. 

You may find it helpful to give the employee an EAP pamphlet or suggest they visit the web site at                                                                          

If a referral for treatment or other resource is needed, the EAP counselor will provide a good match and provide follow-up support to insure the referral is successful.                                                                                                                

How does a manager or supervisor refer directly to the EAP?

It is extremely helpful if the manager or supervisor calls the EAP to discuss the referral process and to share useful information, particularly when there are behavioral or job performance concerns.  Usually the employee will call to arrange an appointment within a few days.  Most of the time an employee can be seen promptly.         
How do EAP services complement Human Resources Department (HR) services when poor performance is the issue?

While a simple lack of motivation, low morale, or a lack of appropriate skills may contribute to poor performance, studies have found that most employees with problems at work are also experiencing personal or family difficulties. 

HR may suggest that an employee voluntarily seek assistance from the EAP when the problems are personal or the employee is experiencing significant distress.  The EAP may suggest that an employee voluntarily seek assistance from HR when the source of the stress is a misunderstanding about job expectations or staff relationships. 

Both the EAP and HR are available to managers, as well as to employees, to consult on performance issues when the causes are unclear. 


  • Moves the employee from thinking about change to action
  • Links the employee to community resources
  • Supports employee’s follow through to resolve problems
  • Improves employee job performance
  • Reduces time spent by manager worrying about the employee and job performance
© 2009 Partners HealthCare System, Inc. All rights reserved.

For more information, or to discuss employee or workplace concerns, please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

This content was last modified on: 04/07/2009

Partners EAP is not a service for the general public.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

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