Employee Assistance Program

Minutes of the National EAP Advisory Committee

May 6, 2003
Jill LaRose
Director General, Strategic Branch Management and Program Support Directorate
4th Floor, 200 Laurier Ave. W., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 941-9405
John Benbow
EAP Representative, PIPSC
London, Ontario
Tel. (519) 636-2041
Cathy Munroe
Regional Director – Customs
Northern Ontario Region
2265 St-Laurent Blvd., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 991-0566
Shawn Bergeron
Regional Vice-President, UTE
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Tel. (204) 984-5262
Suzanne Gorley
National EAP Coordinator
3rd Floor, 99 Metcalfe Ave., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 954-8127
Eunice Trainor
3rd National Vice-President, CEUDA
Summerside Tax Centre, PEI
Tel. (902) 432-5869
Michel Goguen
Senior EAP Advisor
3rd Floor, 99 Metcalfe Ave., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 952-2109
Lina Ruel
Labour Relations Officer, UTE
233 Gilmour Street, Ottawa
Tel. (613) 235-6704
Judy Bonacci
Supply Project Manager
Finance and Administration
(present for item number 2)
5th Floor, 45 Rideau Street
(613) 957-9533
Observers
Doug Gaetz, UTE EAP Committee
Diana Gee, UTE EAP Committee
Judith St-Onge, National EAP Office (minutes)
Bonnie Lehman
Senior Labour Relations Advisor
3rd Floor, 200 Laurier Ave. W., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 957-3543
France Fisette
Labour Relations Advisor
3rd Floor, 200 Laurier Ave. W., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 954-8167

OPENING REMARKS

Jill LaRose welcomed everyone to the meeting, commenting on the full agenda.

A brief roundtable of introductions ensued due to the presence of new faces around the table, both members and resource people.

1) REVIEW OF COMMITMENTS

The National EAP Office reviewed the list of commitments agreed to at the last meeting of the National EAP Advisory Committee.

The PIPSC representative enquired as to the status of the national EAP Coordinator-counsellors Conference, planned for April 2003, but postponed due to budgetary restrictions. The representative also asked about the work of the various Coordinator-counsellor sub-committees that had been formed at their conference of 2002. The National EAP Office updated the Committee on the status of the various sub-committees. Three of the original six have disbanded. The sub-committees looking at Record & File-Keeping and Referral Agent issues had originally planned to present drafts of their work at the National Conference, but its cancellation resulted in the various projects being put in hiatus. Those committees will now aim for a possible conference in the fall or the next meeting of this Committee as target dates for completion of their projects. The committee responsible for organizing the National Conference awaits word on possible dates for a re-scheduled conference.

The Committee briefly discussed the new corporate look and the accompanying perceived loss of identity (i.e. EAP logo) for the program. The unions suggested ways to promote the fact that the Program is jointly supported by both management and the union organizations.

2) UPDATE ON THE CONTRACTING PROJECT

The National EAP Office updated the Committee on the status of this project.

The Request for Information (RFI) portion of the project has been completed. A summary of the companies’ responses was prepared and sent to the unions and the Regional Directors of HR. The eight companies that responded all felt that our generic Statement of Work (SOW) for external EAP services was a viable product. All companies felt that the requirements were reasonable and could be met and all agreed that they could bill on a fee-for-service basis, although some argued that a flat rate system was easier to administer. The National EAP Office commented that, while this might be true, CCRA experience shows that a flat-fee payment system also is likely to result in a lower utilization rate and less service received for dollars spent.

The finalized SOW can now be shared with all EAP stakeholders and will be used as the basis for all external EAP contracts.

The National EAP Office, in consultation with experts from the Materiel Management Division of the Finance & Administration Branch, prepared a document examining various options available to CCRA to streamline both the EAP contracting process and the number of service contracts currently in existence. A copy of this document was provided to the unions in advance of the meeting.

The National EAP Office briefly went over the three options as presented in the document (Status Quo, a National or Regional contracts, a National Standing Offer).

Judy Bonacci, Materiel Management Division, was available to respond to questions.

It was explained that the actual service delivery costs would be roughly comparable for each option; the savings would be administrative in that a National Standing Offer could be created by one committee at the national level. The administrative cost of this committee’s work must be factored in to the Standing Offer option, but their expense would likely be incurred once every 2-3 years, and possibly as infrequently as once every 5 years. This compares with the current requirement for each Local EAP Advisory Committee to conduct a contracting process each time their existing contract expires. There are currently ~ 65 such contracts across CCRA.

The unions expressed concerns that local input and flavour would be lost in such a process. Judy Bonacci explained that a National Standing Offer would be able to respond to regional and local needs. A list of contractors will be pre-approved and a local or district or region can choose the provider from the list that can meet their needs. The local committees could be involved in that part of the process. Ms. Bonacci also mentioned that the call-up process for standing offers is done through CAS, meaning that up-to-date expenditure information will be readily available. Judy also confirmed to the committee that EAP contracts are exempt from the NAFTA provisions.

The unions observed that since local input and flexibility would be maintained, the Standing Offer option seemed to be the favourable one. Management agreed, stating that it streamlined the process administratively, allowing local committees more time to actually promote the program. It also would ensure a standard, high level of service to employees. Management commented that the Regional HR Directors had been briefed and agreed that this option should be further explored.

Management thanked the unions for their feedback on this issue and indicated that they would be kept informed of further developments in this area.

3) EAP PLANNERS - FEEDBACK (2003) & PLANNING (2004)

The National EAP Office briefly reviewed the document provided to the unions beforehand, culminating with the recommendation that the 2004 planner be similar in size and format. Several dates would be highlighted as per an Employment Equity request and a page listing intranet-accessible web sites of interest for employees would be added at the end.

In response to a suggestion from the unions, the National EAP Office agreed to add the web-site addresses for the union organizations (UTE, CEUDA and PIPSC) to the list. In addition, the fact that the program is jointly supported by the union organizations and management will be highlighted in the 2004 Planner.

UTE presented a day-timer that Dofasco provides to its employees as an example of a monthly planner with health tips, in a wallet-sized format. A discussion ensued concerning various design options for the 2004 Planner. The idea of a monthly format was discussed as was a change to the spiral binding to make the planner more user-friendly. It was agreed that these issues would be explored with designers and other representatives from the Publishing Directorate. The Committee will be kept up to date on findings.

The committee discussed the issue of distribution and the fact that some employees did not want or use the planner. The National EAP Office explained that the over-riding purpose of the product was to heighten EAP awareness. It was therefore important that each employee receive a copy. They proposed writing to all employees (Interaction or e-mail) to inform them of the upcoming 2004 planner and to briefly address the results of the planner survey conducted in early 2003. That communiqué could also contain a list of suggestions for those employees who do not want or need their planner (i.e. take it home, give it to someone who needs two). The issue of using recycled paper will also be investigated, in light of concerns raised with respect to sustainable development.

The PIPSC representative raised the fact that the two-year Braille calendars prepared during the first year of this project were for 2002 and 2003. The National EAP Office will ensure this format is offered in 2004.

4) EAP PROMOTIONAL STRATEGY

The National EAP Office quickly reviewed the latest draft of the Promotional Strategy document and thanked members for providing quick feedback on the document last February. The next step is to ask the Coordinator-counsellors to discuss the document with the Local EAP Advisory committees and referral agents in their areas of responsibility for any further feedback.

There was some discussion on the standards related to the delivery of the EAP Union/Management Workshop. The PIPSC representative indicated that it was important for the Program to address those training needs in all locations. Management suggested that this subject would be raised and addressed when the Coordinator-counsellors and local committee members are discussing the standards contained in the promotional strategy document.

The issue of a video devoted to explaining the EAP, both as an orientation and training tool, was discussed. Management explained that Communication experts had indicated that a video was not a cost-effective method of promotion and that more effective tools are available to reach the employee population. The committee agreed that the production of a video would no longer be considered.

The committee agreed that the unions’ joint support for the program should be clearly identified on promotional products. The EAP pamphlet, which is currently under revision, offers an ideal opportunity to consult with Communications on how to meet this need while respecting the requirements of CCRA’s corporate branding policy.

Draft copies of an InfoKit, a series of modules aimed at providing important EAP information to both new and experienced Local EAP Advisory Committee members, were distributed to the Committee members. One further module, dealing with contracting external EAP services, is under development and will be provided as soon as possible. The National EAP Office requested feedback from the unions by mid-June and agreed to send the union members an electronic version of the documents.

5) TRAINING PLANS FOR 2003/2004

The National EAP Office briefly presented training plans related to referral agent and local committee learning opportunities as well as the Union/ Management Workshops.

The PIPSC representative noted some areas that did not specify dates for the Union/Management Workshop. Management noted that the document was a plan and that further information would be available as the year unfolded. The National EAP Office confirmed that the agency last year met the target goal of having 20% of its supervisor/managers exposed to this training.

Some discussion took place regarding the fact that regional EAP conferences involving referral agents and local EAP committee members were not occurring on an annual basis. Management observed that the regions are responsible for identifying their network’s needs and the ways in which to meet them. The frequency of occurrence of a particular activity is not a reliable indicator of whether a need is being met or not. Management suggested that the regions were finding other ways to meet the learning needs of the various EAP stakeholders as alternatives to annual, formal conferences.

6) UPDATE ON EAP ACTION PLAN

The National EAP Office delivered an update on the various initiatives of the EAP Action Plan.

Discussion centred on the recommendation concerning the hiring of a Clinical Supervisor at the National EAP Office to provide clinical support to the EAP Coordinator-counsellors. The committee discussed the alternatives to having a full-time staffed position (Option 1) i.e. providing the services to the Coordinator-counsellors through a nationally contracted professional firm (Option 2) or have the Coordinator-counsellors enter into individual clinical supervision relationships with external professionals of their choosing in their areas (Option 3). It is estimated that each Coordinator-counsellor would require 10 hours of clinical supervision service per year.

The third option was discussed at some length with the National EAP Office explaining what the role of clinical supervision entailed. The PIPSC representative observed that if this option were chosen, the other duties that a full-time clinical supervisor (Option 1) would have performed would not take place. The National EAP Office indicated that the bulk of those duties that would have been assigned to the resident clinical supervisor are already carried out by National EAP Office staff. The PIPSC representative questioned the costing of the third option. It was pointed out by the National EAP Office that the projections had been developed through consultations with the Coordinator-counsellors and by using Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA) clinical supervision standards. It was also explained that extra consultation time had been factored in.

Management suggested that further work needed to be done to accurately define the parameters and processes involved in Option 3. The unions suggested that it was important to ensure that the spirit of the EAP Evaluation Report’s recommendation concerning clinical evaluation be respected.

7) BEST PRACTICES

The National EAP Office cited the Atlantic Region’s EAP Week

(February 3-7, 2003) as an example of a best practice. Activities of an EAP theme were held in offices throughout the region over the course of the week. The local EAP committees and referral agents were active in organizing the activities and ensuring that events were well promoted and ran smoothly. This initiative was strongly supported by management and the union organizations in all locations.

The PIPSC representative mentioned that Wellness Fairs had been held in various locations across the country and also identified the regional joint referral agent and local committee conferences that had taken place as being examples of a best practice.

8) EAP COVERAGE FOR RETIRED EMPLOYEES

The PIPSC representative discussed the issue of the difficulties that some employees face after they retire adjusting to such a major change in their lives. He suggested that extension of the benefits of the EAP to cover retirees for a period of one year after retirement would be appropriate.

Management indicated that the issue had been explored previously, with the decision being made to focus on preparation for retirement rather than extending benefits. All members agreed that the issue had merit and would be examined again. The National EAP Office will keep the parties informed.

9) ROUND TABLE

The union representatives found today’s meeting productive and wished to also comment on the EAP network’s and management’s response to the SARS crisis. They felt that communication to the employees was prompt and addressed their concerns.

The issue of one particular external contractor providing statistics with a breakdown of the occupational groups of the clients was discussed. It was agreed that this information was not needed and that the provider would be asked to no longer provide it.

Management also noted the timely response of the EAP network to the SARS crisis and also highlighted recent effective responses to critical incidents that had occurred.

CLOSING REMARKS

The next meeting was tentatively scheduled for November 5, 2003.

Jill LaRose
Director General, Strategic Branch Management and Program Support
Human Resources Branch

Eunice Trainor John Benbow
3rd NationalVice-President EAP Representative
CEUDA PIPSC

Shawn Bergeron
Regional Vice-President
UTE