Well-Being Committee

Minutes of the National EAP Advisory Committee

June 14, 2011

DATE: June 14, 2011

TIME: 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

LOCATION:

99 Metcalfe, 2nd Floor, Boardroom 210

PARTICIPANTS:

 

 

Management
Jerry Travis
Audit Manager, Site Director, Sydney
(via videoconference)

Claude Tremblay
Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate

Union
Doug Gaetz
UTE Representative

Erik Gagné
UTE Representative

John Benbow
PIPSC Representative

National EAP Office
Suzanne Gorley
Director

Hélène Grandmaître
Senior EAP Advisor

Martine Parent
Senior EAP Advisor

Charmaine MacIntosh
Minute taker of committee

 

Labour Relations
Leanne Given
Labour Relations Advisor

 

Guest
Allan McDermaid
Manager, Internal Audit, Corporate Audit and Evaluation Branch

Regrets
Ray Lazzara
PIPSC Observer

Terry Dupuis
UTE Observer

Corina Harding
UTE Observer

 

OPENING REMARKS

The Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate opened the meeting by welcoming everyone. He noted the addition of time allocations for each of the agenda items as suggested by John Benbow.

1. AUDIT OF EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM CONTRACTS

Mr. Allan McDermaid, Manager, Internal Audit, Corporate Audit and Evaluation Branch (CAEB), updated the National Advisory Committee (NAC) on the development and testing of audit tools and templates for the Supplier Contract audit that is currently being conducted. The objectives of the audit are to determine the extent to which service suppliers are abiding by the terms and conditions of their contract(s) with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as well as to determine whether controls are in place to monitor supplier compliance. This is the first time that Internal Audit has been asked to conduct this type of audit. The audit tools that are being developed will assist Internal Audit in meeting the above-noted audit objectives. For example, that key processes and internal controls are in place and adhered to, amounts charged are accurate and in accordance to terms of contract, etc. The tools being created for this process may be a viable option for auditing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) external service providers.

Mr. McDermaid explained that the most time consuming steps of such a project are found in the planning phase which includes the scope of the audit. In this particular case, there were delays in determining the scope as there were discussions with the Finance and Administration Branch on conducting a price certification audit. Due to many factors that are involved in determining price, it would be very difficult to conduct such an audit. Although the project is still in the developmental stages, now that the scope has been defined, Mr. McDermaid expects that his team will begin testing models this summer on two current supply arrangements. A working model should be in place by June 2012.

A discussion was held on the need for auditing the EAP external service provider contracts. According to research by the National EAP Office, none of the federal public service EAPs has ever conducted an audit of their service providers and few do much in the way of monitoring these services. In CRA, the Coordinator-counsellors, as part of their monitoring role, ensure that the bills received are accurate and that the services provided are within the scope of the contract. This monitoring has uncovered billing errors in the past and refunds or credits were received. The fact that monitoring is currently occurring successfully mitigates the risk and the need for an audit. For these reasons, and due to limited resources, an audit of the external service provider contracts had not been identified as a priority previously.

However, the NAC members were of the opinion that it is important to ensure that contracts be well administered and encourage contractor diligence through a cyclical audit plan.

The NAC agreed that professional auditors, such as CAEB auditors, should carry out the audits, not EAP staff.

Late 2010, a Cyclical Audit Plan for Procurement was approved by the Management Audit and Evaluation Committee. The plan describes the planning of a series of audits that will focus on key activities, risks and associated controls related to various phases of the procurement cycle.

The National EAP Office will request CAEB conduct an audit of EAP external service contracts.

Mr. Allan McDermaid will be invited to the December 13, 2011 NAC meeting to provide an update on their audit project.

2. FOLLOW-UP ON COMMITMENTS FROM LAST MEETING

The National EAP Office 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.

3. NATIONAL EAP STATEMENT OF WORK

The unions raised concerns about the perceived disparities among various regional service provider contracts. Recently, certain work sites had been advised of changes to their previous contracts and certain specialized services for elder care, legal and financial matters were no longer to be offered.

The National EAP Office provided additional information and context to the situation. Standards have been set nationally for EAP services provided through our external service providers. These services are outlined in the National Contract Templates for the External Service Providers Contract documents used by the regions. The services we require of our external service providers are as follows:

  • Intake Services;
  • Counselling Services;
  • Crisis Intervention Counselling;
  • Professional Consultation / Advisory Services;
  • Critical Incident Stress Management;
  • Promotion, Information and Educational Sessions;
  • Program Monitoring and Quality Control Services.

There have been no major changes to the national contract templates for the last several years. All the regions use these templates, thereby ensuring that the standards are met throughout the country.

EAP has always provided short-term counselling (average 3.5 hours per client) for a wide range of issues including legal, financial and eldercare issues. Thus these issues are tracked in the statistical forms and the related definitions are in the contract documents. The following definitions are embedded in the National Contract Templates:

Legal: Client requests services regarding concerns of a legal nature.

Financial: Client requests services regarding financial concerns.

Family – Elder: Client requests services regarding an aging family member, such as his/her parent, in laws, or members of extended family.

EAP provides short-term counselling for any emotional and psychological impacts these issues may have on clients. In addition, EAP refers employees to outside community resources for additional or specialized support or resources on these issues. The clients receive therefore both counselling and access to specialized community services.

In a few instances, certain regional contractors were bundling their services and offered specialized in-house legal, financial and eldercare services in addition to the short-term counselling. These specialized services were never part of the national standards. Sometimes, they were offered at an additional cost which some regions chose to cover, but these instances were not common.

The National EAP Office noted that EAP counselling services are not intended to replace community counselling services, equivalent resources or specialized treatments (like legal, financial and eldercare services) that are available within the community. While, some committee members observed that the referrals to community services for specialized services often encountered delays in obtaining services/counselling, the National EAP Office indicated that support and counselling is provided to employees experiencing stress related to the above issues while they await for community-based resources.

The National EAP Office explained that it appears that, in the process of consolidating their contracts, some regions are now adhering strictly to the standards described in the national templates resulting in some of the offices no longer having access to the specialized services they used to have. NAC members agreed that, because this particular change was experienced as a loss of services, communication about any changes to a contract becomes particularly important.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) representative was of the opinion that other regions should expand their offering of specialized services. However, in order to avoid similar situations occurring in the future, the consensus of the committee was that regions should adhere to the criteria found in the national standards and not add specialized services. NAC members also indicated that the Local Advisory Committee (LAC) members of a region undergoing a contracting process should be engaged in the discussions around the transition process.

The National EAP Office will obtain additional information on the recent contracting process that gave rise to concerns regarding disparities among various regional service provider contracts to clarify the situation.

The National EAP Office will communicate to the regions the importance of following the national template standards and the importance of engaging in discussions with the LACs whenever a transition process needs to be put in place.

4. 2010 – 2011 STATISTICS/ANNUAL REPORT

The National EAP Office Director indicated that this is the first time that the National Office has been able to provide all the stats and have them fully validated in time for the NAC meeting. It was noted that the Coordinator-counsellors had done an amazing job in ensuring that the service providers and the referral agents provide the numbers quickly and that the National EAP Office staff had worked hard to compile and validate the statistics to meet this tight deadline.

The annual report essentially follows the same format as last year with updated text and analysis and a few minor changes. Committee members had received and reviewed portions of the annual report as they were being written. They were pleased to see that past comments and suggestions had already been incorporated and, as a result, had few comments on the report.

The following are highlights of key statistics for 2010‑2011:

  • Utilization rate of EAP counselling services has remained stable, at 14.4%.

  • Crisis Line Calls went from 20 to 40 occurrences.

As usual, the top three presenting issues are related to: family, emotional/mental health and work. Overall, all three have increased.

Statistics on issues for which EAP Services have been sought:

Areas showing increases:

  • Abuse, Threats, Stalking (29 to 43 cases).
  • While the total number of consultations on Family/Marital issues remains about the same, there was an increase in Family – Relationship (2.1%), Family – Children (5.2%), and Family – Elder (10.6%) issues.
  • Health – Emotional/Mental (11.9%).
  • Work – Change (50.8%) and Work – Conflict (Supervisor) – 39.6%.
  • Work – Life balance (almost doubled – 93 to 178 occurrences).

Areas showing decreases:

  • Addictions – total (27%) (although gambling has increased);
  • Financial (18.1%);
  • Grief (8.3%);
  • Harassment (23.4%);
  • Health – Physical (27.5%);
  • Legal issues (23%).

Other Services:

  • Advisory Services continue to be well utilized:

    • The number of managers’ requests for advisory services increased.

    • The number of Human Resources (HR) professionals’ requests for advisory services increased.

    • The number of union representatives’ requests decreased.

  • The number of hours related to the support given to the LACs by the Coordinator-counsellors increased significantly.

  • There was a decrease in the number of Orientation Sessions given, but the number of employees attending those sessions remained relatively the same. Sixty-three percent (63%) of orientation sessions were delivered by referral agents.

  • The number of Wellness Fairs increased slightly and reached 25% more employees.

  • Slight decrease in the number of training sessions for employees, but more employees received training.

  • Increase in the number of managers and union representatives who received training.

The PIPSC representative indicated that, similar to the recent emphasis by CRA on harassment training, it is perhaps timely that a similar case be made for mandatory mental health training. He also expressed concern about the lower utilization rate for Headquarters (HQ), suggesting that an additional resource may be required in the region to deliver services fully, given the number of employees in HQ. The National EAP Office referred to the statistical trends indicating that there have been significant increases in the utilization rate in the HQ region since 2008‑2009. The National EAP Office also indicated that many factors need to be taken into consideration when determining the number of Coordinator-counsellors required, including the number and nature of work sites and the geographical dispersion of work sites.

The National EAP Office will forward the remaining sections of the annual report currently being completed to committee members for review and feedback.

The National EAP Office will provide additional information on the elements taken into consideration in determining the number of Coordinator-counsellor positions.

5. EAP PROMOTION

At the December NAC meeting, the committee had requested that the National EAP Office consult the regions and share best practices currently being used to promote the program, especially to families, while respecting the current guidelines on promotional items. The results of this consultation were shared with the committee.

Best practices identified for promotion of the EAP during budgetary restrictions and in line with the new directive included:

  1. National EAP pamphlet used in a variety of ways:
    1. a deskdrop of the national EAP pamphlet followed by an e‑mail reminding employees that family members are also entitled to receive services and encouraging employees to bring the pamphlet home to their family;
    2. walk-about by referral agents offering national pamphlets with added regional or site-specific contact information. Two copies offered with one for home.
  2. Sending an e‑mail with information about the program, the eligibility, the services.
  3. Sending an "EAP thought of the week" to all employees: encourages awareness, leads to request for services and provides visibility while also being inspirational and supportive.
  4. Doing an annual meet and greet and distributing promotional items from previous years.
  5. Distribution of promotional items from the external service provider provided free of charge. The National EAP Office highlighted that the extensive use of external service provider promotional material is of concern however, as such material does not include information on all the services and the service providers nor all of the contact information.

The committee was also informed at this meeting that the production of the 2012 EAP planner had not been approved.

A discussion followed on possible options to ensure promotion of the program, particularly the promotion of the EAP services to employees’ families. One such option was the creation of an external Web site link to the the national EAP Web site as it includes all the relevant information including the links to the regional Web sites. These regional links would also need to be accessible externally. It was also proposed that the National EAP Office seek authorization for the production of regionally personalized stress cards as an inexpensive option for the promotion of EAP to families.

The committee was also consulted on sample Public Affairs Branch (PAB) electronic poster templates designed for personalization and that EAP has adapted. The National EAP Office sought the members’ opinion on the usefulness of these for the LACs. These would be distributed to the regions for their use.

The National EAP Office committed to looking into the possibility of an external Web site link.

The National EAP Office will seek authorization for the production of regionally personalized stress cards to promote EAP to employees’ families.

The National EAP Office will forward the PAB electronic poster templates to the regions.

6. LOCAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE TRAINING

Subsequent to the presentation of a workshop entitled "Supporting Employees While Respecting Our Own Boundaries" by EAP to the National Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) EAP Conference in November 2010, the PIPSC representative in one region requested a presentation of the workshop for its regional representatives. Since providing union training locally during work hours is outside the scope of EAP’s role, the National EAP Office had offered to consult the Coordinator-counsellors on the possibility of offering this workshop to the LACs in addition to the LAC Basic Course, as part of ongoing training for committee members.

The National EAP Office explained the current training model for referral agents and LAC members, developed in 2008, which plans for both groups receiving a basic course, as well as the future development of common modules and role-specific modules. The LAC basic training flowed out of this training model. The “Supporting Employees While Respecting Our Own Boundaries” workshop was adapted from the Referral Agents Advanced Training Course and explores the issues related to boundaries when one is playing a supportive role.

The National EAP Office consulted the Coordinator-counsellors on the suitability of the workshop for LAC members given that the role of the LAC members is different from the referral agents and involves support to the program and not to individuals. They recommended that:

  • The current "Care for the Caregiver" module for referral agents remain the same, with perhaps some updating to incorporate some of the material of the workshop.
  • Consideration be given to adapting the workshop as a national training product for all employees, and therefore be available to LAC members wishing to benefit from it from a personal perspective.
  • Continue to focus on the LAC Basic Training at this time and ensure that any new training for LAC in the future be role-specific to ensure that it meets the needs of LAC members.

UTE suggested that this training product be integrated into the current mental health workshop for employees.

Committee members agreed that any new training for the LACs be role-specific to ensure it meets their needs. Everyone also agreed that the current focus on the provision of LAC basic course to LAC members should remain.

The National EAP Office will explore further the best approach to use the workshop material and report back to the committee.

7. UPDATES

a) LAC Training

Almost all members have been trained and new members are being trained as they join the committee. It was suggested that a three-year comparison report on the LAC members’ training be compiled for the next NAC meeting in order to get a complete picture. As almost 90% of LACs are providing their activity logs to the National EAP Office, reporting on LAC activities can now be integrated into the annual report.

The National EAP Office will provide a final update to UTE as to the current status of the training received by its LAC representatives.

The National EAP Office will provide a three-year comparison report on the LAC training in December 2011.

b) Complaint Process for Coordinator-counsellors

The National EAP Office consulted with the NAC members on the development of the complaint process for Coordinator-counsellors. The National EAP Office sought the NAC’s perspective on the best approach and their thoughts on what the process should include in light of the issue of professional accountability from a clinical perspective. Another important question revolves around who the clients should be contacting if they have concerns about the clinical service received from a Coordinator-counsellor. Various possibilities were discussed. Everyone agreed that it was important to consider the role of the regional manager as well as the role of the National EAP Office in such a process.

In light of the numerous questions that this topic raises, it was decided that further reflection and consultation were required.

The National EAP Office committed to table the issue of the complaint process for Coordinator-counsellors again at a later date, following consultations with the regional HR managers and the Coordinator-counsellors.

c) Pulse Reports

The National EAP Office created the report a few years ago to provide qualitative data to complement the information provided by the statistics. Initially it was provided quarterly then it became a semi-annual report. The last report dates back to 2009. Unfortunately the report is time consuming to prepare, extremely detailed and provides similar information to that found in the annual report. Its format is not very user friendly. A new approach is needed to address these shortcomings.

A discussion followed on the benefits of the report and on suggestions for improvement including developing a shorter format covering the highlights at mid-year while the annual report would provide a year-end summary. It was noted that a complaints section would need to be added to the Annual Report. The committee was reminded that, as there will be no budget increases in the foreseeable future, the National EAP Office must also consider how to make the best use of its limited resources.

The National EAP Office will determine a more effective manner to highlight to senior management the factors which influence the pulse of CRA and the impact that EAP has on the work environment. The topic will be discussed at a future NAC meeting.

d) Tools and Training Products Review

The National EAP Office regularly updates and improves its tools and training products to better meet the evolving needs of CRA employees as identified in feedback received. Currently, the EAP is working on the following:

  • Mental Health Workshops – the current workshops for managers will be adapted with the first session focussing on awareness, the second on skill development and the third on the role of EAP on return-to-work situations. All sessions will align more closely with the "Mental Health - First Aid in the Workplace: Managers’ Guide".
  • Business Health Culture Index (BHCI) – Working Well: Workshop and tools were presented at the October 2010 business meeting. At that time, the decision was made to further discuss with the Coordinator-counsellors their concerns on the effectiveness and suitability of the tool. Further to the consultations, the decision was made to adapt the tools and presentation in order to develop an awareness building session on how to create a healthy workplace.
  • Grief and Loss in the Workplace for Managers: The current factsheet is being expanded into a "Toolkit for Managers" to assist them in managing the steps involved following the death of an employee.
  • Guidelines on the selection of LAC employee representative:
    • In light of the fact that LACs are seeking guidance in the process to follow on the selection of the LAC employee representative, a Coordinator-counsellor suggested that guidelines be developed for LACs.

The National EAP Office will consult the NAC members and seek their feedback on the new and updated products.

e) Summer Issue of EAP Newsletter

The latest issue was circulated at the meeting and is scheduled to go live in July 2011. The National EAP Office regularly receives positive comments from employees and managers on the newsletter’s articles.

8. BEST PRACTICES

The National EAP Office reported the following best practices:

In all regions, the Coordinator-counsellors have created or adapted tools or workshops to meet the specific regional needs. These include a True or False questionnaire on anti-depressants, a Critical Incident Stress Management workshop for managers, workshops on healthy work environments, on creativity and mindfulness, generational differences, the role of EAP in return-to-work.

At the Call Centre in Hamilton, EAP participates in a "Meet & Greet" at the beginning of the year to provide information about various services to the new employees. Their EAP LAC again organized activities for the "Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month Challenge" managed by the National Quality Institute and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and won an award.

As mentioned previously, the regions have developed a variety of ways to ensure promotion of the program, especially to family members.

9. NEXT MEETING

Scheduled for Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

SUMMARY OF COMMITMENTS

 

 

 

To be actioned by

 1

The National EAP Office will request CAEB conduct an audit of EAP external service contracts.

National EAP Office

 

Mr. Allan McDermaid will be invited to the December 13, 2011 NAC meeting to provide an update on their audit project.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office will obtain additional information on the recent contracting process that gave rise to concerns regarding disparities among various regional service provider contracts to clarify the situation.

National EAP Office

 

 

The National EAP Office will communicate to the regions the importance of following the national template standards and the importance of engaging in discussions with the LACs whenever a transition process needs to be put in place.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office will forward the remaining sections of the annual report currently being completed to committee members for review and feedback.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office will provide additional information on the elements taken into consideration in determining the number of Coordinator-counsellor positions.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office committed to looking into the possibility of an external Web site link.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office will seek authorization for the production of regionally personalized stress cards to promote EAP to employees’ families.

National EAP Office

 

The National EAP Office will forward the PAB electronic poster templates to the regions.

National EAP Office

 

10 

The National EAP Office will explore further the best approach to use the workshop material and report back to the committee.

National EAP Office

 

 

11 

The National EAP Office will provide a final update to UTE as to the current status of the training received by its LAC representatives.

National EAP Office

 

12 

The National EAP Office will provide a three-year comparison report on the LAC training in December 2011.

National EAP Office

 

13 

The National EAP Office committed to table the issue of the complaint process for Coordinator-counsellors again at a later date, following consultations with the regional HR managers and the Coordinator-counsellors.

National EAP Office

 

14 

The National EAP Office will determine a more effective manner to highlight to senior management the factors which influence the pulse of CRA and the impact that EAP has on the work environment. The topic will be discussed at a future NAC meeting.

National EAP Office

 

15 

The National EAP Office will consult the NAC members and seek their feedback on the new and updated products.

National EAP Office

 

 

Approved by 

Claude Tremblay, Director General, Workplace Relations
and Compensation Directorate
Date: September 8, 2011

Approved by 

Doug Gaetz, UTE representative
Date: September 19, 2011

John Benbow, PIPSC representative
Date: October 3, 2011