EAP in Alberta – Emotions running high, EAP to the rescue!

Chris Hylton


I was once asked to address a group of Calgary healthcare providers at a hospital facing closure as a cost cutting measure.  Staff were all about to lose their jobs at that historic facility.  Tensions were running high.  I pointed out that while staff may not have jobs at this particular facility anymore, that the healthcare system had many opportunities for them in other locations.  My message was politely received.

It was an emotional time for staff.  A nurse who was retiring, arose to speak and thanked everyone for all the support shown her over her many years.  She also mentioned how most of all, she wanted to thank her Alberta EAP for being there when she needed it. Fast forward a number of years and more uncertain times, EAPs are once again proving their worth!

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North DakotaDo you have someone at work who is clearly in mental distress?  Well-meaning Managers are often tempted to “help” staff in situations like this. Bad idea. Managers are not trained in mental health interventions, and can in fact make the situation worse.  Having an EAP removes the perceived need to intervene and provides for a highly trained EAP professional, who will ensure the confidentiality of the issue.  Managers can certainly help by suggesting that EAP help is available, at no cost.  In cases where performance issues arise from the issues, the Manager may tactfully insist on the employee attending counseling.

The worldwide decline in energy prices have taken a toll on the Alberta economy and provided an uptick in Alberta EAP usage.  Alberta employers planning group terminations of 50 plus must provide the Ministry of Labour advance notice.  In the first six weeks of this year, companies filed ministerial notices revealing plans to terminate 4,544 workers.  This number includes the 2,000 employees of Target Canada, and is nearly nine times that of the same period last year.  While we do not have reliable data on EAP usage, it goes without saying that in times of workplace stress, EAP usage also spikes.

At times like this, employers are advised to ensure their Managers are fully up to date on how to “Identify the Troubled Employee”. In terms of addiction issues, which also spikes at times of economic stress, the Construction Owners Association of Alberta has been a leader and has crafted their well-known Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace.

pumpjackIndustries where EAP penetration is typically low, include seasonal, part-time, retail, as well as smaller employer, oil field service and construction jobs.  This latter category has been hit especially hard with the oil price downturn, making EAP’s much in demand as workers attempt to deal with the new reality of being without work, or transitioning to a new part time or lower paying position.  Family members who were secure, are now finding themselves vulnerable and are also reaching out to EAP professionals, to deal with the stress and uncertainty that comes with job loss and change.

In cases of layoffs, some employers provide a continuation of benefits for a defined severance period, which provides the full support of the benefits plan, EAP, and outplacement services, at no cost.  In times of stress, EAP is once again proving its worth.

chrisChris Hylton, MA will be speaking at the 2015 EASNA  Institute conference APRIL 22-24, 2015 conference in Clearwater Beach Florida. For more information or to connect with Chris, check out social media and his website https://hylton.ca .