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The integration of EAP with disability management programs fosters better disability outcomes and economic advantages

A new study completed by the Morneau Shepell Research Group clearly demonstrates that combining the services of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with a Short-Term Disability (STD) Management program can significantly shorten the duration of disability claims, regardless of health issue.

Executive Summary

Many Canadian organizations offer short-term disability coverage for employees, with some or all of the premiums paid by the employer. This investment, assumed by organizations to protect employee income while on non-occupational related illness or injury, is a significant contributor to the rising benefit costs for many employers. Organizations are financially impacted not only by the obvious direct costs of workplace disruption from absence, including medical and pharmacological interventions, salary continuance, replacement workers, decreased production, and litigation but also by indirect costs, such as recruitment and training, productivity output, quality and customer service issues and management’s time. These considerable and growing costs mean that organizations must act strategically to influence the underlying issues of absence and the barriers for a successful return to work.

Research clearly indicates that many STD claims have causes that, while medical in diagnosis, have multiple issues—behavioural, psychological or psychosocial—which affect both the incidence and the duration of absence. To effectively understand how to mitigate the risk of absence or to impact the duration of absence, it is important to consider the interdependence between behavioural, mental and physical issues and the effect on the severity of the condition.

Traditional, stand alone Disability Management programs are challenged to address the complex, interrelated issues that contribute to disability claim duration and outcome. Without specialized assessment and the right support, recovery and return to work can be delayed significantly, even when mental health issues are not the primary reason for absence.

An integrated EAP and STD program is a form of ‘risk management,’ an emerging area of workforce risk management and health care cost containment designed to better understand the underlying and interrelated behavioural and mental health aspects of claims, and to provide additional information and supports as early as possible. A combined program has the unique ability to be planned and implemented specifically to address issues along the entire continuum of health—from prevention through to recovery.

For the purpose of this review, Morneau Shepell examined EAP and STD data for 198 organizations in a one-year period from January 1st to December 31st, 2010. The study featured a two group model including a study group of 108 organizations that had integrated EAP and STD Management programs with Morneau Shepell. A group of 90 organizations which only had their STD Management program with Morneau Shepell were tracked within the non-EAP group and were used for comparison.

Number of organizations with integrated EAP and STD Program with Morneau Shepell

The findings indicate that organizations having integrated EAP and STD Management programs with Morneau Shepell had a lower rate of absence (average duration) compared with the non-integrated EAP and STD Management program group. This amounts to a 31.05% shorter STD duration for integrated programs.

Average STD duration for integrated vs Non-Integrated EAP

This significant reduction in STD duration has direct and indirect costs associated with the absence which will be lower within the combined group compared with the same costs for organizations in the non-integrated EAP – STD program group.

With the exception of Neoplasm, (tumours traditionally associated, although not synonymous with cancer), and Congenital Anomalies (defects present at birth), all therapeutic categories in the integrated EAP and STD group have a lower claim duration when compared with claims in the non-integrated EAP and STD group.

The findings highlight the effectiveness of a combined EAP and STD model wherein the total health perspective of the individual is considered towards optimizing return to health and return to work outcomes.

Average STD duration by health issue

Integrated EAP and DM - April 2014 (PDF)