Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are not a motivational tool for employees and are all about "protecting the risk of a company", says First Group reward and pensions director John Chilman.
Speaking at the Pensions and Benefits UK confrence (PBUK), Chilman said while he recognised the value of an EAP to support employees with stress and poor mental health in the workplace, he explained it was important to offer a range of alternatives.
"Of course we all have things like employee assistance programmes in place which are not a motivational tool, they're really a company's get out of jail free card, it's all about protecting the risk of the company," he said.
"We offer a range of things as an alternative, a lot of things around stress could be bullying in the workplace or managers so we have whistleblower lines and various other things. We're actually going through a cultural transformational change at the moment, to try and look at the softer side of things, because most of the things I'm responsible for are the quite hard, the financial and tangible benefits."
Chilman added that it was important for organisations to understand the reason why they were offering such benefits: "It's the sort of thing that we want to offer, but if you're going to buy it you've got to think about what you're going to get out of it because it's not really an area where I would expect to see 20% usage, I want the right people to go at the right time."
He also pointed towards the heightened responsibility employers are currently facing in respect of an ageing workforce, highlighting flexibility around healthcare and management as key to supporting these employees.
"We've got to recognise with the older workforce that you're going to have grandparents working that have childcare responsibilities for their grandchildren and parents with children and are going to need flexibility because they have ageing parents that suffer from dementia and other various illnesses you get through old age.
"I think the flexibility that is required through healthcare and around management is increasingly difficult and it's very hard in my role. Unfortunately you need the bus driver to turn up at the right time at the depot to take the bus out. So flexibility is a lot harder in our industry than it is in some, but I think it's absolutely important and vital," he concluded.
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