Employee Assistance/Support Programs

What are employee assistance/support programs? This approach aims to minimize work disruptions and absenteeism and improve workers’ financial stability by offering confidential and customized support when life issues interfere with work. 

Who provides employee assistance/support programs? Nonprofit or for-profit organizations working in partnership with employers provide these programs. Although employee assistance programs have been a part of the human resources landscape for some time, only recently has it been part of local workforce system services.

One of the first employee support organizations to implement this approach was The SOURCE in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was established when a group of manufacturing employers came together to address the child care needs of entry-level employees. Several similar efforts were later developed in communities across the country, and the approach came to be called the “sustainable workforce model.” In 2015, four nonprofit organizations—The SOURCE, WorkLife Partnership (Denver, Colorado), Connect for Success (Seattle, Washington), and Working Bridges (northwest Vermont)—came together to form a replication network called WorkLab Innovations, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the consulting firm FSG.

Why are employee assistance/support programs important? Entry-level and low-wage workers can face many barriers to performing their role and maintaining their employment. Simultaneously, key issues for employers include absenteeism and turnover, which can affect the bottom line. Employers may not be able to identify the issues that cause problems like absenteeism and turnover, nor may they be positioned to provide the kinds of support workers require to overcome these challenges. The sustainable workforce model is designed to bring in a third-party nonprofit provider that is better able to help employers reduce workplace issues and increase productivity.