Employee Assistance Program

Minutes of the National EAP Advisory Committee

December 13, 2011

DATE: December 13, 2011

TIME: 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

LOCATION:          Place de Ville, Tower A, 22nd Floor, Room 2234, 320 Queen St.

PARTICIPANTS:

Management
Claude Tremblay
DG, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate

Janet deKergommeaux
Director, Ottawa TSO

National EAP Office
Suzanne Gorley
Director

Hélène Grandmaître
Senior EAP Advisor

Martine Parent
Corporate EAP Consultant

Judith St-Onge
Minute taker of committee

Guest
Mary Wong
Manager, Internal Audit, Corporate Audit and Evaluation Branch

Union
Bill Blair
UTE Representative

Erik Gagné
UTE Representative

Lorne Roslinski
UTE Observer

Corina Harding
UTE Observer

Gilles Laprise
PIPSC Representative Alternate

Labour Relations
Leanne Given
Labour Relations Advisor

Regrets
Teekah Ramnauth
PIPSC Representative

OPENING REMARKS

The Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate, Claude Tremblay, welcomed everyone, particularly new committee members of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) representatives Bill Blair and Lorne Roslinski, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) representative Gilles Laprise (alternate for Teekah Ramnauth) as well as the new regional management representative Janet deKergommeaux, Director of the Ottawa Tax Services Office (TSO). In the round-table introductions, members expressed strong support for the program.

1. PRESENTATION ON THE EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (EAP)

Since the committee had new union and management members, the National EAP Office (NEAPO) provided an overview of the program and its policy, and highlighted the key developments of the last few years such as the evaluation and consultation reports. National EAP Committee members highlighted the continued importance of being proactive in offering targeted support to employees.

2. SEMI-ANNUAL REPORT

NEAPO provided an overview of the semi-annual EAP statistics, covering the first six months of 2011‑2012. The overview document and three-year comparison roll-up were shared prior to the meeting. It was noted that utilization rates have remained fairly consistent; however, compared to the same period the previous year, there has been an increase in training sessions delivered to employees, managers and union representatives.

It was noted that there has been a decrease in the number of employees seeking assistance for legal issues. This raised the question as to whether this was due to the fact that regions are adhering to the national contract standards which do not include specialized services.

NEAPO will look at the breakdown of the numbers for the legal issues to identify the origin of the reduction.

3. FOLLOW-UP ON COMMITMENTS FROM LAST MEETING

NEAPO reviewed the commitments made at the last meeting and the actions taken with respect to each. No additional items were derived from this item. Follow-ups to certain items were part of the agenda, to be covered subsequently in greater detail.

4. ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES (UTE)

  1. Issuing of National EAP Advisory Committee meeting minutes

UTE expressed concern about the delay in issuing the final minutes of the June 14, 2011 meeting. NEAPO indicated that workload pressures due to the finalization of the Annual EAP Report and the development of other tools and products for regional delivery, coupled with the lengthy process of producing quality bilingual minutes, accounted for the unusual delay in issuing the minutes. In order to ensure more timely distribution in the future, NEAPO will be looking at producing more succinct minutes.

  1. Time estimates

UTE expressed concern that the time allocations listed after each item on the agenda might be used as constraints to the discussion. The committee members agreed that the time estimates provided on the agenda would be considered to be notional in nature and not used to limit discussion time.

5. FIT-UP STANDARDS FOR EAP COORDINATOR-COUNSELLORS’ (C‑Cs) OFFICES

Currently, all EAP C‑Cs have enclosed offices. However, the question of the standards for the C‑Cs’ offices comes up regularly when there is a move in one of the regional offices.

The current Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Fit-Up Standards indicate that C‑Cs can be provided with "an enclosed office to support a CRA operational requirement(s)…through the use of "Other Undesignated (Hard Walled) Support Space" (Source: CRA (amendments August 16, 2005, July 4, 2006, October 19, 2006 and May 9, 2008), Reference: CRA Office Entitlements and Equivalency Table (Communiqué from the directors general on the CRA Fit-Up Standards).

The Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) Fit-Up Standards do not refer specifically to EAP, but contain a provision to have enclosed offices for conflict resolution advisors.

NEAPO is working with CRA National Real Property Governance representatives as well as the Interdepartmental EAP Network to have EAP counsellors included in the list of positions entitled to a closed office in the CRA and Public Works standards.

National Advisory Committee members strongly endorsed the need for enclosed offices for EAP C‑Cs. Concern was expressed at the use of other types of rooms, such as boardrooms, for EAP sessions. It was felt that this would be inappropriate considering the confidential nature of the conversations. Both the UTE and the PIPSC representatives recommended that sound-proofing standards be incorporated in the design of the EAP counselling offices.

NEAPO will continue to move this file forward.

6. AUDIT OF EAP CONTRACTS

In order to exercise due diligence in the managing of the EAP external service provider contracts, NEAPO consulted with Corporate Audit and Evaluation Branch (CAEB) on the development of an audit process.

Mary Wong, Manager, Internal Audit – Corporate Functions, CAEB provided a status report on the project underway in this regard. Her presentation was much appreciated by members.

The National Advisory Committee members support the cyclical auditing of external service providers, while recognizing that this is not a high risk area, as EAP contracts are currently being well managed by the C‑Cs.

7. NATIONAL EAP TRAINING

EAP regularly creates and updates tools and workshops to ensure EAP stays current. Steps include consulting with the C‑Cs, management and the unions at the National Advisory Committee. NEAPO presented the products worked on this year: the Toolkit for Managers on Grief and Loss in the Workplace and the updated versions of its Mental Health in the Workplace workshops for managers.

Both the toolkit and the updated workshops were very well received. Suggestions to enhance the products were made by the UTE and the PIPSC representatives. In order to ensure committee members have ample time to review and comment on the products, it was decided that further time would be allotted for review. NEAPO asked that any further comments be provided within the next three weeks.

Members will provide any additional comments by January 6, 2012.

8. E-COUNSELLING

NEAPO briefed committee members on the status of e‑counselling within the CRA, seeking their views on this type of service. Currently, several of our EAP service providers offer e‑counselling. Recently, several wanted to promote this service extensively to employees.

NEAPO noted that this is not a new service; rather, it is a new mode of delivery for a service EAP already purchases: counselling. An overview of how e‑counselling is provided was presented: the service is not available from the work site; employees are offered the option of face-to-face counselling or e‑counselling; checks and balances are in place to triage and to ensure appropriateness of offering e‑counselling and obtain informed consent.

Several concerns were raised by members. Some noted that the current contracts do not include the provision of e‑counselling. There are therefore no parameters around the delivery of this type of counselling or any evaluation criteria for the e‑counselling counsellors. There may also be legal liability issues that need to be addressed.

It was decided that the issue requires further research and consultation. Members were interested in seeing the research in this area and having information sessions on e‑counselling services from a few providers.

In the meantime, as employees currently have access to e‑counselling in many locations, we will continue to allow this option while ensuring that the focus remains on face-to-face counselling, as e‑counselling is not appropriate for all types of issues. NEAPO will update the regions on the discussions of the committee and request that the external service providers provide no focused promotion of e‑counselling specifically.

NEAPO will forward research material on e‑counselling to committee members. It will also consult with the regions to see if data on the current utilization rate of e‑counselling can be gathered.

NEAPO will set up a meeting between the committee members and a few external service providers to discuss the provision of e‑counselling.

NEAPO will contact Contracting to discuss potential liability issues related to offering services not currently detailed in the contract.

9. FAMILY SERVICES EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM OF OTTAWA (UTE)

UTE brought forward their concerns regarding the delays encountered by employees in the Ontario region in accessing the new external EAP service provider Web site. Difficulties included employees not having the user ID and password required, the customized Web site not being available and the overall lack of communication with the employees during the transition process. PIPSC indicated it had been reported that only managers had access to the Web site.

NEAPO will contact the region to ensure the situation has been resolved satisfactorily and inform the committee members.

10. UPDATES

NEAPO provided the following updates:

EAP Promotion:

  • Promotional Items: Members were informed that consultations held with the regions indicated that producing stress cards was not a good option. NEAPO will therefore not be seeking authorization to produce stress cards.

UTE indicated that not having the EAP agenda was a great loss.

  • External Web site: Further to consultation with the Public Affairs Branch (PAB) and InfoZone representatives on the possibility of providing employees and families with access to our EAP InfoZone site, it was determined that this option is not a viable way to promote the program to families.

Members discussed how best to promote the program given the restrictions. It was suggested that new tools such as the Toolkit on Grief could be highlighted in the national EAP newsletter On the Road to Wellness. It was also suggested to explore the possibility of publishing information on EAP in Interaction.

Learning Event:

  • Committee members were informed that a professional development session for C‑Cs will be held January 31, February 1 and 2, 2012, in Ottawa. Its focus will be Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a counselling model well suited to the short-term counselling model of EAP, as well as Change Management and training in the newly revised Mental Health workshops.

Best Practices:

  • This standing item will now be included on the agenda on a yearly basis.

NEAPO will gather any feedback from the regions resulting from the cancellation of the EAP agenda.

NEAPO will look into the possibility of having EAP information in Interaction as it is accessible from home.

NEAPO will highlight the new Managers’ Toolkit on Grief and Loss in the Workplace in the EAP newsletter once the toolkit is finalized.

NEAPO will remind the regions to keep track of their best practices in order to share them annually.

CLOSING REMARKS

Committee members commented on the productive nature of the meeting and its positive and collaborative tone.

SUMMARY OF COMMITMENTS

   

To be actioned by

1.

NEAPO will look at the breakdown of the numbers for the legal issues to identify the origin of the reduction.

NEAPO

2.

NEAPO will continue to move this file forward (fit up standards for C‑Cs).

NEAPO

3.

Members will provide any additional comments by January 6, 2012 (national training products).

All

4.

NEAPO will forward research material on e‑counselling to committee members. It will also consult with the regions to see if data on the current utilization rate of e‑counselling can be gathered.

NEAPO

5.

NEAPO will set up a meeting between the committee members and a few external service providers to discuss the provision of e‑counselling.

NEAPO

6.

NEAPO will contact Contracting to discuss potential liability issues related to offering services not currently detailed in the contract.

NEAPO

7.

NEAPO will contact the region to ensure the situation has been resolved satisfactorily and inform the committee members (Family Services Web site).

NEAPO

8.

NEAPO will gather any feedback from the regions resulting from the cancellation of the EAP agenda.

NEAPO

9.

NEAPO will look into the possibility of having EAP information in Interaction as it is accessible from home.

NEAPO

10.

NEAPO will highlight the new Managers’ Toolkit on Grief and Loss in the Workplace in the EAP newsletter once the toolkit is finalized.

NEAPO

11.

NEAPO will remind the regions to keep track of their best practices in order to share them annually.

NEAPO

Approved by

Claude Tremblay, Director General,
Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate

Date: January 17, 2012

Approved by

Bill Blair, UTE representative

Date: January 31st, 2012

Gilles Laprise, PIPSC representative (alternate)

Date: February 1st, 2012