Employee Assistance Program

EAP Referral Agents (CRA) National EAP Committee Recommendation

March 2007

Addendum to March EAP Report to Council

At our EAP committee meeting in January, we had a long discussion on UTE position concerning the internal facet of the EAP which includes both the coordinators counselors and the referral agents.

Referral Agents

From the discussion that took place at the National EAP Conference, we noted thirteen very positive comments regarding the presence and the role of referral agents, five middle of the road comments and three strong negative comments.

The committee also noted from statistics provided by the employer that each referral agent works about 33 hours per year on EAP business. These 33 hours include the time spent on training, committee work, wellness and orientation sessions and conferences.  In reality, we can conclude that no more than 15-20 hours per year are actually spent by each RA doing referrals.

From the discussion and from the survey completed by the participants at the conference, we know that some of our members are now becoming referral agents and that their locals are supporting their work. In some locals there are no referral agents while in others there are as many as ten.

UTE has always had three major issues with the use of referral agents:

  • the possibility of a  breach of confidentiality
  • the fear of referral agents providing counseling outside of their mandate
  • the fear that referral agents would direct all business to the coordinator counselors which could lead to the demise of the external facet of the program.

Our first concern was with the confidentiality aspect of the program and referral agents. Most of the members of the National EAP Committee have received the referral agent training and are aware of how the training places a lot of focus on confidentially. From experience we also know that the employer has a strong policy in place to deal with suspected breaches of confidentiality. The few reported incidences have been dealt with effectively and immediately.

Secondly, we were very concerned with referral agents taking on the role of counselor. We can only repeat what we have said previously in that their training stresses that their role is to refer only. And again we have to say that we have had next to no reason to believe that some referral agents have gone beyond their mandate to refer.  If that ever happened,  the employer’s policy would deal with any such situations effectively and immediately.

In the past we were concerned that the introduction of Referral Agents and Coordinator counselors could possibly lead to the loss of the external facet of the program. Over the last few years, we came to realize that the coordinators counselors spend the majority of their time on the administration of the Program. Very little of their time is actually spent on counseling which remains the role of the external provider. Current training for referral agents focuses on the use of the external provider for the counseling services.

Recommendations

The National EAP Committee recommends that the UTE no longer take an active role in discouraging our members, other than UTE Representatives, from seeking to become referral agents.

From the National perspective we feel that, at a minimum, the selection lists of referral agents should be reviewed by the UTE locals before it is published. This would afford the locals the opportunity to address any concerns with the coordinator counselor about any name on the list. As it happens now, the locals are not aware of who is selected until they become a referral agent.

The National Committee also recommends that we allow the Local EAP Committees to decide what their role will be in the selection process of the referral agents. In this case the individual offices can decide whether they support the need for referral agents, how many they need and who should be responsible for selecting them.  (NOTE:  We have to remember that CRA has a national mandate to offer the same EAP services and access points in all its locations)