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Etienne Pretorius leads the Employment & Labour Law Department at Bev Loubser Attorneys and has provided the content in this article in response to a question raised in South Africa | 19th August 2020.

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An Employee Assistance Program is a work-based intervention program provided by an employer as a support service for the employee’s benefit. It is also called an EAP, or employee wellness program. The EAP is designed to provide the services of experienced and licensed experts and professionals at the employer’s cost. The expertise remains available to support an employee who is experiencing trauma or stress in a debilitating way.

The EAP is there to help the employee when they experience a particular problem, e.g. a divorce or domestic issue. Their private life is impacted such that it disrupts the normal life circumstance and ultimately their ability to work and perform efficiently. The crisis is impacting their health and general well-being.

Figure 1 The Media which experienced and licensed experts and professionals would typically use
Figure 2 Area of an issue which an employer can expect will cause trauma in an employee’s life

An EAP is there to a benefit both the employer and the employee. It’s the employee who is facing a particular problem in their private lives which may impact their work experience. However, they will not walk the road alone. In the instance where the crisis involves a legal matter, the Legal expert is available to provide the necessary support and advice, even if it means they have to reach into their network to access the help of another specialist, for example, a counsellor or financial planner.

Legal experts are Legal experts are independent and exercise their expertise to provide an external intervention as a proactive solution to help the employee remain focused.

Text Box: Figure 4 Activities which are available to the employer from the legal advisor
Figure 3 Benefits of an EAP

Training and regulatory compliance services are also available to the employer who is able to develop a business relationship with the legal advisor who is more expeditiously responsive in a crisis since the relationship already exists, and orientation is already done. Disaster & response planning is done to anticipate disruptors with the optimal cost when the employer and legal advisor collaborate to effect strategic planning and development.

The business benefits with the legal advisor in close proximity since they are available with services and support in each aspect of its operation. [1]

Figure 4 Activities which are available to the employer from the legal advisor

For instance, incapacity management, which provides the investigation, evaluation, and management processes to facilitate the reasonable accommodation of the employee who is not able to perform their duties at the required standard due to a chronic or acute health challenge. [2] If the coronavirus is as debilitating as governments and organisations are saying it is, then incapacity of an employee needs to be dealt with fairly.

Another instance which often requires intervention is in dealing with absenteeism: the employer needs to ensure that employees, who are ill, are identified, assisted and managed in order to keep with regulations, enhance productivity and avert future incapacity situations. Managers need to have systems in place to measure, manage and reduce the cost of sick absenteeism to the company and other employees.

The Covid-19 or Coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc in business and in people’s lives and is emphasising the need to provide wellness intelligence in order to target health interventions. Stress-related problems can be a big detractor from employee performance. The services of experienced and licensed experts and professionals are packaged so that they are available at the employer’s cost, and provide anonymity to successfully walk the employee through the trauma.


[1] Incidentally, its true that item 5.1.4 of Regulation No. 43164, states that

“All Internet sites operating within .zaDNA top-level domain name must have a landing page with a visible link to www.sacoronovirus.co.za

[2] In South Africa: The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 – Code of Good Practice in that the employer has to investigate the incapacity of an employee who can longer function in their role assigned. The employer is to determine if the incapacity is temporary or permanent, total or partial and whether the employee could potentially be accommodated in another position or by adjusting the function of the employee (reasonable accommodation).

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