About the EA profession and EAPA
EA Related Laws and Regulations
About EAPA chapters and branches

Question: What is employee assistance?
Answer: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) serve organizations and their employees in multiple ways, ranging from consultation at the strategic level about issues with organization-wide implications to individual assistance to employees and family members experiencing personal difficulties. As workplace programs, the structure and operation of each EAP varies with the structure, functioning, and needs of the organization(s) it serves.

In general, an EAP is a set of professional services specifically designed

  • to improve and/or maintain the productivity and healthy functioning of the workplace and to address a work organization’s particular business needs
  • through the application of specialized knowledge and expertise about human behavior and mental health.

Question: What is EAPA?
Answer: The Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) is the world's largest, oldest, and most respected membership organization for employee assistance professionals. With nearly 5,000 members in over 30 countries around the globe, EAPA is the world's most relied upon source of information and support for and about the employee assistance profession. EAPA publishes the Journal of Employee Assistance, hosts professional conferences and offers training and other resources to fulfill its mission. EAPA's mission is to promote the highest standards of EA practice and the continuing development of employee assistance professionals, programs and services.

Question: How do I become an EA professional?
Answer: Fundamentally, employee assistance is the application in the workplace of knowledge about behavior and behavioral health to improve both personal and workplace productivity and healthy functioning. That means the employee assistance profession is an unique integration of organization development, behavioral health, human resources, and business management. Most employee assistance professionals have knowledge and experience in a behavior health field such as social work or counseling, and many may be drug and alcohol counselors. EA professionals also enter the profession with backgrounds in human resources and organizational development. Several colleges and universities offer formal training programs; however, because the employee assistance profession draws on the knowledge and skills of a variety of professional fields, most professional development happens through continuing education offered through EAPA and its local chapters and branches. Take some time to review the EAPA website and become familiar with the information and resources that are available, such as the annual EAPA Conference and EXPO, the Pre-conference training program, and the free EAP Newsbrief. Visit EAP Career Central to look at the various job descriptions and learn about the qualifications and experience that program managers and administrators are seeking in an EA professional. Find an EAPA chapter/branch near you and attend a meeting. While there, you can network with the chapter/branch members to learn more about the profession.

Question: Are There Standards and Guidelines for EA Programs?
Answer: Yes there are. The purpose of the EAPA Standards and Professional Guidelines for Employee Assistance Programs is to promote the highest quality employee assistance programs. This document identifies a coordinated set of policies, procedures, and activities. When designing its EAP, each organization applies these standards and professional guidelines based on its own unique mission, operation and culture. To review the Standards, click here.

Question: What is the EAP Core Technology?
Answer: The employee assistance program Core Technology (EAP Core Technology) represents the essential components of the employee assistance profession. These components combine to create a unique approach to addressing work organization productivity issues and "employee client" personal concerns affecting job performance and ability to perform on the job. Click here to review the EAP Core Technology.

Question: What factors should I consider when buying an EAP for my organization?
Answer: The EAP Buyer’s Guide is a best bet for purchasers looking to make informed decisions about selecting or designing an effective Employee Assistance Program and getting the most for your money. The Guide identifies the essential questions to ask in the purchasing process and offers practical guidelines to help organizations choose the EAP that will support a healthier workforce, maximize employee productivity, and provide the greatest return on investment.

Question: Does EAPA maintain statistics on EAP utilization?
Answer: We are frequently asked if EAPA maintains statistics on EAP utilization by industry or company size or for that matter any stats at all on EAP utilization standards. The utilization question seems like a simple one, but unfortunately, it isn’t simple. For extensive information on this topic read our article on utilization.

Question: How many companies have EAPs?
Answer: In the US, over 97% of companies with more than 5,000 employees have EAPs. 80% of companies with 1,001 - 5,000 employees have EAPs. 75% of companies with 251 - 1,000 employees have EAPs. A 2008 National Study of Employers following ten years trends related to U.S. workplace policies and benefits shows that the EAP industry continues to grow, with 65% of employers providing EAPs in 2008, up from 56% in 1998. The US has the most saturated market for EAPs in the world. However, there is an ever increasing appreciation of the value of employee assistance in other countries, and the number of EAPs worldwide is growing. For more information on the growth of EAPs in other countries, visit EAPA's online index of international branches and click on the country of interest to get in touch with a knowledgeable branch officer.

Question: I'm a clinician in private practice. I'm trying to grow my practice and would like to offer my services to EAPs. However, I don't know which EAP companies operate in my geographical area. How can I find out?
Answer: Contact/attend your local EAPA chapter/branch and ask the chapter members about who the players are in your area. You can also find a list of chapter officers on your chapter/branch page. They are very knowledgeable about the field. Also, join EAPA so that you can access the member directory on the website, which is searchable by name, city, etc. You might scan the members in your area to see if anyone is close to your neighborhood and contact them for advice.

Question: Is There a Formula for Pricing EA Services?
Answer: Unfortunately, there can be no formula, since every EAP is unique to the organization in which it operates. For example, companies with a higher proportion of females typically have higher EAP utilization than those with more males. Similarly, utilization often correlates with education – up to a point. It also varies by the level of trust within an organization. On the “employer services” side, different organizations want or need different amounts of education, training, supervisor or organizational consultation, etc. Organizations also differ on the dispersal of their employee populations, corporate culture, etc. – all of which affect pricing. For the provider, pricing has to be affected by overhead costs, salary structure, etc.

If you want “capitation” pricing, you have to make some educated guesses about the amount of services you expect to provide and how much it will cost you to provide each unit of each kind of service. I.e. How many hours of assessment, counseling, follow-up, etc. – at what cost per hour; how many hours of consultation – at what cost per hour; how many clerical hours – at what cost per hour; etc. Add this to variable costs of supplies, etc. and fixed overhead costs; then decide how much margin you need to make. The total will give you the price you can afford to deliver your estimated amount of service for.

Question: I have a question about an ethical issue. Who can help me?
Answer: EAPA’s Ethics Education Panel of Experts was formed to assess the EA profession’s needs in relation to ethics education and to identify and promote educational resources to meet those needs. The Panel is now inviting EAPA members to submit their concerns, questions, or comments related to the ethical practice of Employee Assistance. All concerns will be handled with discretion. Contact the Panel at

Question: What NAICS code is appropriate for the EA profession?
Answer: The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by government statistical agencies and others in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to classify business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the North American economy. Some EA firms have been asked to classify themselves using the NAICS system. While there are no codes specifically identified as referring to EA programs, EAPA recommends using 525120 – Health and Welfare Funds. This industry comprises legal entities (i.e., funds, plans, and/or programs) organized to provide medical, surgical, hospital, vacation, training, and other health- and welfare-related employee benefits exclusively for the sponsor’s employees or members. This classification is a partially exempt Industry - not required to keep OSHA records unless directed to do so by OSHA. See:
The OSHA coding manual is updated every 5 years, with the next update due in 2022.  Be certain to verify reporting requirements have not changed each year at: 


(For additional information, also consult the EAP Public Policy section of the EAPA website)

Question: What Does Parity Mean for EAPs in the U.S.?
Answer: The departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury came out with regulations clarifying the parity act. According to some analysts, EAPs cannot serve as gatekeepers, unless a similar form of management is applied to medical benefits. Also employers cannot require employees to exhaust EAP benefits before they access mental health care if a similar requirement does not exist for accessing medical care. Many other experts have weighed in. Our public policy section can help you get a grasp of the implications of parity for EAP.

Question: Are EA Services in the U.S. Covered Under COBRA/ERISA?
Answer: Whether EA services in the U.S. are covered under ERISA and COBRA has been an ongoing question. The answer is complex for several reasons, including the variation in design of EA programs and the range of services offered to both employers and employees under the “employee assistance program” umbrella.

EAP is a Welfare Benefit plan under ERISA: §1167. Definitions and special rules documentation: 
The term "group health plan" means an employee welfare benefit plan providing medical care (as defined in section 213(d) of title 26) to participants or beneficiaries directly or through insurance, reimbursement, or otherwise. 
The term “medical care” means amounts paid— 
(A) for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body, 
For more information, visit:

[NOTE: The information provided above is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, and it should not in any way be construed as legal advice.]

Question: Are EA services in the U.S. subject to HIPAA?
Answer: The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule sets national standards for the protection of electronically communicated individually identifiable health information by health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. The HIPAA Security Rule sets national standards for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronically protected health information (PHI).

The definition for “group health plan” under HIPAA is identical with the definition under COBRA (and substantially the same as the definition under ERISA). Therefore, if an EA program is considered to be a group health plan for purposes of COBRA (see FAQ above), the EA program would also be a group health plan for purposes of HIPAA.

Addressing and complying with HIPAA requirements can be a very detailed and potentially expensive initial process, however most EA programs and providers find it important to do so, even if they may not be subject currently to HIPAA regulations. Electronic transmission of information is becoming ever more pervasive in today’s world, and the definition of PHI is such that it would be very difficult to exclude EA information from it. Purely from a risk management perspective, EAPA recommends that every EA program and provider have very clear guidelines and protections for EA information and data flow.

[NOTE: The information provided above is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, and it should not in any way be construed as legal advice.]

Question: How are EAPs in the U.S. treated under HSA (Health Savings Account) legislation?
Answer: The IRS, which falls under the US Department of the Treasury was charged with writing the guidelines to determine eligibility for HSAs. Treasury found that having an EAP does not make an individual ineligible to contribute to an HSA.

On July 23, 2004, Treasury issued Notice 2004-50 to provide comprehensive guidance regarding a number of HSA related issues. The Notice is in Q&A format with clarifying examples. EAPs are addressed in question 10, reproduced here:

Q-10. Does coverage under an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), disease management program, or wellness program make an individual ineligible to contribute to an HSA?

A-10. An individual will not fail to be an eligible individual under section 223(c)(1)(A) solely because the individual is covered under an EAP, disease management program or wellness program if the program does not provide significant benefits in the nature of medical care or treatment, and therefore, is not considered a “health plan” for purposes of section 223(c)(1). To determine whether a program provides significant benefits in the nature of medical care or treatment, screening and other preventive care services as described in Notice 2004-23 will be disregarded. See also Q&A 48 on incentives for employees who participate in these programs.

Example (1). An employer offers a program that provides employees with benefits under an EAP, regardless of enrollment in a health plan. The EAP is specifically designed to assist the employer in improving productivity by helping employees identify and resolve personal and work concerns that affect job performance and the work environment. The benefits consist primarily of free or low-cost confidential short-term counseling to identify an employee’s problem that may affect job performance and, when appropriate, referrals to an outside organization, facility or program to assist the employee in resolving the problem. The issues addressed during the short-term counseling include, but are not limited to, substance abuse, alcoholism, mental health or emotional disorders, financial or legal difficulties, and dependent care needs. This EAP is not a “health plan” under section 223(c)(1) because it does not provide significant benefits in the nature of medical care or treatment.

For more information on HSA related issues, click on any of the following:

  • EAPA submitted detailed written comments to the Treasury Department, making our case as to why we believe that having access to the services provided by an EAP should not make an employee ineligible for an HSA.

    EAPA’s efforts paid off. On July 23, 2004, Treasury issued Notice 2004-50 to provide comprehensive guidance regarding a number of HSA related issues.

Unfortunately, we cannot generalize this opinion to ERISA, COBRA, HIPAA, or other regulations, but it is quite specific with respect to HSAs.

Question: How are EAPs in the U.S. treated by the IRS for purposes of W2 reporting?
Answer: Consistent with its finding (above) with respect to HSA legislation, the IRS, on behalf of the US Department of the Treasury, issued clarification on 1/9/2012 regarding Form W-2 reporting requirements for EAPs. (See As is typical, the notice is in Q&A format; the IRS said the following:

Q-32: Is the cost of coverage provided under an employee assistance program (EAP), wellness program, or on-site medical clinic required to be included in the aggregate reportable cost reported on Form W-2?

A-32: Coverage provided under an EAP, wellness program, or on-site medical clinic is only includible in the aggregate reportable cost to the extent that the coverage is provided under a program that is a group health plan for purposes of § 5000(b)(1). An employer is not required to include the cost of coverage provided under an EAP, wellness program, or on-site medical clinic that otherwise would be required to be included in the aggregate reportable cost reported on Form W-2 because it constitutes applicable employer-sponsored coverage, if that employer does not charge a premium with respect to that type of coverage provided to a beneficiary qualifying for coverage in accordance with any applicable federal continuation coverage requirements.

Question: Are EA programs in the U.S. subject to Medicare Secondary Payer reporting requirements?
Answer: Medicare secondary payer mandatory reporting rules are required under Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007. Under these rules insurers and third party administrators, as well as plan administrators or fiduciaries of self-insured and self-administered group health plans, are required to collect information from their plan sponsors and participants that will assist the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in identifying situations where the group health plan is primary to Medicare and reporting this information quarterly to CMS.

EAPs that are determined to fall under the definition of “group health plan” for purposes of HIPAA, COBRA, or ERISA (see FAQ above) also are subject to the Medicare secondary payer reporting requirements. In general, these requirements may be considered as a compliance issue for which the plan sponsor (employer) is responsible. Most companies submit reports using the “model notice” posted by CMS.

[NOTE: The information provided above is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, and it should not in any way be construed as legal advice.]

Question: Are EA Program records the same as medical and mental health records, or are they different? What are the laws for maintenance of EA records?
Answer: Employee Assistance (EA) records normally are not the same as medical and mental health records. Although some EA records may contain medical or mental health information, others (e.g. those related to financial or legal difficulties) do not. Depending on the location (e.g. country, state, province) or design (e.g. internal, external, peer, hybrid) of the EA program, the qualifications of those creating and using the records may be very different. For example, some jurisdictions and/or programs require that individual clients be served by licensed Masters level clinicians; others require certification as an EA professional (CEAP), regardless of degree; still others have varying requirements depending on the type of problem (e.g. lawyer for legal records), etc.

However, regardless of the location or design of the EA program, all EA records should comply with the EAPA Standards and Professional Guidelines for Employee Assistance Programs (available on the EAPA website). The Standard for Record Keeping (Standard II.G.) is this: The employee assistance program shall create and maintain client records that are consistent with the employee assistance program service delivery system, organization policies, program procedures, and applicable legal requirements.

Compliance with the Record Keeping Standard requires compliance with 9 listed “essential components.” They are:

  1. The EAP must maintain retrievable documentation of all direct services and recommendations.
  2. EAP records must be maintained in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.
  3. EAP records must be maintained for the minimum period of time required by law or organization policy.
  4. The storage, transfer and destruction of records must be handled in a manner to assure confidentiality.
  5. Every effort must be made by the EAP to prevent the involvement of EAP records in arbitration, litigation, or any other dispute
  6. EAP client records must be kept in a secure location and be available only to authorized EAP personnel. Client records and rooms where client records are stored must be locked, and computerized records must be maintained in a secure environment and separated from other data systems and all other records.
  7. The EAP must make every effort to assure the confidentiality of information sent by mail, fax, modem, E-mail, or other electronic communication technology. A limit of disclosure statement must be included in all communications.
  8. Ownership of EAP records must be clearly delineated through policy or contract language.
  9. The content of EAP records must be consistent with the scope of the service delivery system.

Since companies and programs operate in such different environments, every company should consult with its own legal counsel to determine what is required for compliance with “essential components” 2 and 3 above, regarding applicable laws and regulations and length of time that records should be maintained. Within the U.S., individual company determinations as to how EA records should be treated have varied widely, depending upon the unique characteristics and circumstances of each program.

Examples* include:

  • Companies that require that EA records be maintained throughout a client’s term of employment with the company (and/or eligibility for EA services) and for “x” number of years after eligibility ends.
  • Companies with internal programs that treat their EA records the same as OSHA records, and keep them for the number of years consistent with those requirements.
  • Companies with external programs that require EA record retention after a client is seen for the period required by the EA professional’s license (varies among states and licenses).
  • Companies that require that all EA records be maintained in compliance with federal confidentiality regulations for substance abuse records.
  • Companies that require that all EA records be maintained in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

(* Please note that these are examples only; they are not an exhaustive list of the options, nor are they recommendations.)

Once the determination is made as to how records will be treated and how long they will be maintained, this determination should then be documented clearly in a written EAP Policy statement (see EAPA Standard I.E.) and, as appropriate, in other statements of operating procedures and practices. Information about record-keeping practices also should be included in the Statement of Understanding (see EAPA Standard III.[3]) EA practitioners provide to every client.

Question: How does the Knox-Keene Act apply to EAPs?
Answer: For EAP professionals, benefits consultants and brokers, and employer representatives who purchase EAP services for employees in California, it is important to understand the requirements of the Knox-Keene Act and how they apply to EAPs operating in the state.

The State of California passed the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act in 1975. Originally, this law was directed at regulating HMOs; however, it now also applies to EAP plans that provide services to employer groups with employees and family members in California.

In order to deliver services in California, EAP plans must either have an Exemption Form on file with the Department of Managed Health Care or be licensed in accordance with the Knox-Keene Act.

Under Title 28, Rule 1300.43.14 of the California Code of Regulations, an EAP plan may request exemption from certain requirements of the Knox-Keene Act if services consist solely of identification of problems and referral to counseling, treatment, or therapy, i.e. the provider does not actually provide the counseling, treatment or therapy, and the number of sessions with any client does not exceed three (3) within any six-month period. Exempt EAP plans are required to comply with certain sections of the Knox-Keene Act pertaining to advertisements, representations respecting implications of licensing, grievances, and the location and inspection of records.

A licensed EAP plan is eligible to provide mental health services, i.e. counseling, short-term treatment or brief therapy on an unlimited, per problem basis, based on the session model chosen by the employer. The objective of brief counseling through an EAP is to resolve or significantly improve issues within the EAP benefit without referral to insurance, or to provide support until the client can be connected with a longer-term treatment resource through insurance or a community-based program.

The California Department of Managed Health Care, which is the regulatory agency over health care plans in California, maintains a web site at with information about the Knox-Keene Act and regulations, including a list of licensed behavioral (EAP) plans for use by health plan representatives and consumers.


Question: How do I get in touch with my local chapter/branch to find out when they meet?
Answer: EAPA Chapters/Branches are listed on the website. The chapter/branch section of the website provides information including a calendar of events, contact information for the chapter officers, and the chapter’s website if available.

Question: How do I update my chapter/branch's information on the website?
Answer: You can update your chapter/branch information via a special form or e-mail. For specific information on how to do this, visit the "Updating Your Chapter/Branch" section of the online Chapter/Branch toolkit.

Question: How can I help build and manage my chapter/branch?
Answer: Consult the on-line Chapter/Branch Leaders toolkit. The tool kit was designed to help officers and members build and manage their EAPA chapters/branches more effectively, including recruiting and retaining members, as well as promoting the value of EAPA membership and the EA profession.

Question: Can we have local EAPs financially contribute to the cost of setting our chapter/branch website up and paying for the hosting fees, etc.? We would then have the company's logo on our site, and perhaps provide a link to that EAP. Also, we have financial sponsors for our chapter meeting and we were thinking of providing a link on the website for them as an additional incentive to sponsor the meeting.
Answer: EAPA supports your getting sponsorship for your website. We just would like to call your attention to a few concerns:

  1. The chapter should endeavor to maintain its neutrality
  2. Accordingly, you should not give the appearance of endorsing a particular sponsor
  3. The sponsors should not be allowed to dictate the content of your website
  4. We recommend using the language “supported by” or “underwritten by” instead of “sponsored by”
  5. We would appreciate having the opportunity to review your web lay out and links etc.