The cost of cutting corners: Why a cheap employee assistance program is not always the best

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have become increasingly popular as organisations recognise the importance of supporting their employees’ mental health and well-being. While cost efficiency is a valid concern, opting for a cheap EAP solely based on price may not deliver the desired outcomes. In this article, we explore why a cheap employee assistance program may fall short in providing comprehensive support to your employees and why investing in a robust and high-quality EAP is crucial for your organisation’s success.


Limited Scope of Services:

Cheap employee assistance programs often come with limited resources and a narrow scope of services. While they may provide basic counselling or referral services, they may lack the breadth and depth needed to address a wide range of mental health issues and often serve as nothing more than a tick-box exercise from a HR point of view. A comprehensive EAP should offer various services such as mental health counselling, crisis intervention, substance abuse support, financial counselling, legal guidance, and work-life balance assistance. By investing in a more comprehensive program, you ensure that your employees have access to the resources they need to address diverse challenges they may face.

Lack of Timely and Responsive Support:

Inadequate funding for a cheap EAP may result in the limited availability of professional counsellors or long waiting times for appointments. When employees require immediate assistance or are in crisis, a delayed response can exacerbate their distress and hinder their ability to cope effectively. A quality EAP prioritises timely and responsive support, ensuring that employees can access the help they need when they need it most. This level of support can significantly contribute to mitigating mental health issues, reducing the negative impact on employees’ well-being and work performance.

Insufficient Employee Engagement:

A cheap EAP may lack the necessary resources and strategies to actively engage employees in utilising its services. Without effective promotion and communication, employees may be unaware of the available support or hesitant to seek assistance due to stigma or lack of trust. A high-quality EAP invests in comprehensive employee engagement initiatives, including awareness campaigns, training sessions, and ongoing communication to foster a culture that encourages employees to seek help proactively. By prioritising employee engagement, organisations can maximise the potential benefits of the EAP and create a mentally healthy work environment.

Limited Accessibility and Flexibility:

A cost-cutting EAP may limit accessibility by offering a narrow range of communication channels or restricting the number of sessions available to employees. Accessibility is crucial, particularly for employees working remotely or in different time zones. A quality EAP provides multiple communication options such as phone, video conferencing, or online chat, ensuring that employees can access support regardless of their location. Additionally, flexible appointment scheduling and extended service hours accommodate diverse employee needs, promoting a culture that values work-life balance.

Impact on Employee Satisfaction and Retention:

Investing in a cheap EAP can have adverse effects on employee satisfaction and retention. When employees perceive that their mental health needs are not being adequately met, they may feel unsupported and undervalued. This can lead to decreased morale, decreased productivity, and increased turnover rates. A robust EAP that addresses employees’ comprehensive well-being fosters a positive work environment, cultivates loyalty, and contributes to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. The long-term benefits of a quality EAP outweigh the initial cost considerations.

Do the Maths!

Every service provided has a cost, so when looking at your renewal or quote, ask yourself, could you provide a quality service for the price you’ve been presented?

We see more and more providers offering nothing but a freephone number service and a fancy presentation which only serves as a tick-box exercise, rather than an actual benefit to your staff or business. As a rough calculation, some low-end providers offer an “EAP” for as little as £8 per year! Now while it may be very tempting, how can it afford to actually benefit someone in real need?

As an example – If your company had 100 people covered, this would cost your business £800 per year. For your EAP provider, sending 1 employee for 6 counselling sessions would cost between £360-£480 per issue, so helping just 1 member of your staff has left your provider with only a few hundred pounds to cover all their overheads to provide this service.

When you consider that a little over 1 in 7 people suffer from some form of mental health issue, and you do the maths, the only conclusion you can draw from a budget EAP is that it cannot afford to help everyone who needs it and will leave a lot of your staff deprived.



While cost is an important factor in decision-making, organisations must recognise that investing in a cheap employee assistance program may come at the expense of comprehensive support for their employees’ mental health. By prioritising quality, accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement, organisations can provide their employees with the necessary resources to thrive personally and professionally. A high-quality EAP not only contributes to a mentally healthy work environment but also positively impacts employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention, ultimately driving long-term success for the organisation as a whole.

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