Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) were initiated in the 1940s as workplace alcohol programmes in the US. By the 1970s, EAPs were extended to provide assistance with a broad range of problems including professional development issues and personal concerns.
EAPs subsequently proliferated across UK and the AsiaPacific region, as noted in a review of the EAP market in UK and Europe by Buon and Taylor (2007). In an overview of newer EAP markets, Hopkins (2005) discerns that with the 1990s, EAPs have been established in Singapore, as well as Hong Kong, Japan, and Scandinavia.
Despite being a recent development in Singapore, EAPs have been a topic of local research. Ho (1997) has examined the effect of corporate wellness programmes have on stress, job satisfaction, and absenteeism in Singapore. Although absence from work did not differ between employees with a corporate wellness programme from those without one, the study did demonstrate that employees with a corporate wellness programme perceived their employer more positively. Specifically, employees with a corporate wellness programme expressed greater satisfaction about their job and their benefits.
Moreover, local funding opportunities lend support to the growing market for EAPs. The MOM Work-Life Grant supports EAP counselling and hotline services as part of Employee Support Schemes. The HPB Workplace Health Promotion Grant supports EAP counselling and mental health talks/workshops.
With work-life balance becoming a priority for employees – a recent survey by Accenture reports work-life balance the top priority for some local employees – employing employee support schemes will be key for staving off staff turnover. Mental wellness programmes will be here to stay for some time.