HR and EAPs: From Safety Net to Safe Haven

Everyone deserves a safety net and a safe haven, even at work, and especially if you’re part of the 24% of women and 12% of men who reported at least one lifetime episode of intimate-partner violence.

According to statistics gathered by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence — The most comprehensive study of its kind, released in 2007, found that violence costs the United States $70 billion annually. Most of the $70 billion in costs associated with violence were from lost productivity ($64.4 billion), with the remaining $5.6 billion spent on medical care.

And think about this as well: The cost of domestic violence to the US economy is more than $8.3 billion. This cost includes medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity (e.g., time away from work).

Flashback to 1972 — there really weren’t any resources for my mother back then. She worked as a secretary for the local school district where I grew up, and every time my birth father beat her, she would wear clothing to cover the bruises and marks, constantly avoiding other’s stares and whispers, calling in sick quite a bit.

There were no domestic violence or workplace violence programs where she worked, no employee assistance programs offering counseling or shelter referrals, no assessment and action plans from human resources. She also kept it as much of a secret as she could from family and friends.

Don’t ask, don’t tell. The fear and shame that comes with abuse and intimate partner violence is overwhelming enough (intimate partner violence is another name for domestic violence) – you don’t want your employer to know for fear of losing your job. Employers don’t want to know for fear of potential violence in the workplace.

For my mother and countless others, continuous prayer and faith, support from others, and finally the personal strength to get out of the violence is what it took. Thankfully today there are so many more resources available and more and more companies have workplace violence, intimate partner violence programs, and/or EAPs (employee assistance programs).

In fact, according to EAP data from The Employee Assistance Trade Association (EASNA), “most researchers and industry experts now believe that there is enough solid evidence from high-quality research studies to ‘make the business case’ for providing greater access to mental health services in general and to workplace-based services in particular.”

This has been documented over the course of many EAP case studies and their outcomes (i.e., absence, productivity, health care costs, disability) that include companies such as Abbott Laboratories, America On Line (AOL), Campbell Soup, Chevron, Crestar Bank, Detroit Edison, DuPont, Los Angeles City Department of Water & Power, Marsh & McLennan, McDonnell Douglas, NCR Corp, New York Telephone, Orange County (Florida), Southern California Edison, the US Postal Service, and the US Federal Government.

But consider these unfortunate EAP obstacles:

  • The most common reason women didn’t contact their EAP for intimate partner violence is that they didn’t think about it or didn’t think it was appropriate.
  • Employee utilization of intimate partner violence EAP services is very low.
  • The number one concern of battered women before contacting an EAP is confidentiality — they’re afraid other employees will find out.
  • Most EAPs don’t have standardized evaluations or codes for intimate partner violence.

And consider these unfortunate executive blinders:

  • A recent survey of CEOs found that most believe domestic violence to be a serious issue, yet 71% did not believe it is a problem in their company. (The reality is that approximately 21% of fulltime working adults report being a victim of domestic violence.)
  • Over 70% of United States workplaces have no formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence.
  • Of the approximately 30% that have formal workplace violence policies in place (usually binders on shelves gathering dust), only 13% have domestic violence in the workplace policies and only 4% provide training on domestic violence in the workplace (Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2006).

Only 4%. Seems like one helluva short trip from 1972.

Although overall intimate partner violence in the workplace has declined somewhat, there’s still much work to be done even in 2014, and thankfully human resources, security professionals, EAPs and workplace violence non-profits have all made huge strides in working together to address intimate partner violence and workplace violence.

HR can and should take the lead in providing these programs. Executive management should require these kinds of programs. We need to go:

  • From Safety Net. We’ve come a long way from 1972. With all the organizations like CAEPV and many others as well as EAPs, HR and leadership at all levels weaves the safety net for victims of intimate partner violence and other security threats in the workplace. In fact, if you haven’t seen the domestic violence documentary, Telling Amy’s Story, and how it impacts the workplace, and how companies can help prevent it, I highly recommend you buy it and share it with your organizations, friends and families.
  • To Safe Haven. Everyone deserves one, just as everyone deserves a voice and a support system. Family members, friends and colleagues usually hear first when someone they know is a domestic violence victim. Being supportive and acknowledging that it’s happening to them and that it’s not okay is a start. Ensuring that there’s a safe haven for them that provides assistance, whether from the national domestic violence hotline, a company EAP or a local domestic violence shelter or support group, is where we can all help.

For more information I recommend downloading Domestic Violence: Workplace Policies and Management Strategies.  (This article about domestic violence and the workplace appears courtesy of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence. It was written by CAEPV Executive Director Kim Wells and Stacey Pastel Dougan, Esq.)

God bless you, Mom. You made it, and you are missed.


Photo Courtesy of Bigstock Photo.

#TChat Recap: How Employee Assistance Programs Engage And Nurture Talent

Employee Assistance Programs Help Talent Grow

Who would have guessed that programs built to assist employees keep them happy and healthy? Even more, these happier and healthier employees do their job better and strive to keep successes coming, both for themselves and the organization. Of course, the #TChatters already knew this little bit of wisdom and were happy to shine a light on the bigger picture.

Jen @JRW_SocialMedia said:

“A1) EAPs show employees that they matter enough to invest in.


@TFreedomToWork said:

“A1: by showing that an employees’ needs are top priority! Employees engage when they feel they’re needed

These #TChatters sum up how EAPs affect morale perfectly. Everyone has those times when home life finds its way into the office, especially with, as @HireQ_Inc descibed, the “always-on” lifestyles employees are now living. Assistance programs will help maintain a working office while still being sympathetic to the emotions of your employees and coworkers.

Working in an environment with differing personalities is overwhelming. People are complex and sometimes that causes tension, but without all those individual talents (and weaknesses), a team wouldn’t be a well-oiled machine. Of course, accepting personality differences is easier to say than do, so what can an employer do to help?

@15Five said:

“Q2 With our current culture we have personal development workshops that we rotate, so far it is transcending our team’s well-being

EAPs bear more than just emotional advantages though. Many companies offer lifestyle training courses and can even encourage employees to give up smoking or aid in weightloss as @BarbBuckner pointed out.

Basically, employees benefit from assistance programs and when employees are happy, they are more productive.

#TChatters Agreed That…

Employees and employers both have a responsibility in maintaining a productive workplace and in order for companies to both nurture and assist talent, there needs to be:

  • Encouragement
  • Flexibility
  • Mutual Respect

Employers should be actively encouraging the use of provided assistance programs while recognizing that in a world of humans, tough times happen. @TranslationLady said it is essential to “honor disconnection” and allow employees to have time away from busy work weeks. When there’s flexibility in the workplace, there’s less pressure. Above all, respect the individuals who spend their week in the office, keeping a company going.

@GreenChileAddict said:

“A4 .Treat and respect me as an adult. Think of me as a three dimensional employee not as a tangible asset.

Want to see the #TChat replay?

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mark Sagor and Mark McAuliffe, Global Staffing Manager for Waters Corporation for giving us a look into EAPs and managing talent! Check out Mark Sagor’s blog at Click here to see the preview or check out the related reading.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on the workplace talent frontier? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we may feature it!! If you recap #TChat make sure to let us know so we can find you! 

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat Events, we’ll be talking about building a cultural advantage and how they can help both engagement and workplace happiness. Tim Kuppler is going to be our radio guest and Nancy Rubin will be our moderator. See more information in the #TChat Preview this weekend (and if you haven’t signed up for our newsletter do so! You get all the questions early!)

Save the date: Wednesday, April 16!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our NEW Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels.

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