Tip 4: Mandatory Referrals to the EAP

  1. Understand the issues associated with mandatory referrals.

    EAPs are voluntary. This is in accordance with EAP standards long established by the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association. Voluntary participation is rooted in an ethical doctrine called "client self-determination," a concept universal among helping professions.

    Avoid conflicts with mandatory referrals. So, do mandatory referrals to EAPs associated with drug-free workplace policies conflict with the voluntary nature of EAPs? The answer is "no," provided the supervisor referral is mandatory as a procedural step for the rule infraction; but failure by the employee to accept the referral or failure to cooperate is not the sole justification for disciplinary action. Instead, disciplinary action for the work-rule infraction is given because it is warranted and no longer held in abeyance. The employee's decision against help from the EAP or refusal to cooperate with the EAP's (or the Substance Abuse Professional's) recommendations dictates the response by the organization.

    An accommodation. The referral to the EAP is, in effect, an accommodation offered in lieu of disciplinary action. The employee still makes a choice to accept it, or not. This is a subtle but important distinction, but one that avoids violating the voluntary nature of EAPs and the organization's EAP policy. More importantly, this preserves the EAP as a "program of attraction", not coercion--a key to preserving the organization's investment in the program.

It's True!
It's True!
An employee who believes he or she has been "forced" to come to the EAP or "told they had to come" is usually noncomplaint. Many sit in silence or contempt at the EAP referral process. These are difficult referrals and require the EA professional to explain to the employee that their participation is actually an accommodation where a disciplinary action, or possibility of disciplinary action, is being held in abeyance pending participation and follow-through with a voluntary process and opportunity to accept help.