Employee Assistance Program

Minutes of the National EAP Advisory Committee

November 5, 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

Bonnie Lehman
Senior Labour Relations Advisor
3rd Floor, 200 Laurier Ave. W., Ottawa
Tel. (613) 957-3543

Observers

Doug Gaetz, UTE EAP
Committee

Judith St-Onge, National EAP Office (minutes)

Expert Resource

Marilyn Gendron, HQ Materiel Management

 

OPENING REMARKS

Suzanne Gorley opened the meeting and relayed the regrets of Jill LaRose who was unable to attend the first part of the meeting due to an urgency.

Suzanne welcomed the group, mentioning that it had recently been together (October 21, 2003) at Rigaud, participating in the National EAP Business Meeting.  Suzanne passed on comments from Jill LaRose and the EAP Coordinator-counsellors concerning that day of interaction.  All participants had found it extremely valuable and were impressed by the level of participation and commitment of the National Committee's union representatives.  They appreciated the comments and suggestions that were offered by the parties and wanted to thank the Committee members for their time.

John Benbow (PIPSC) commented that the forum had been excellent and that it allowed each group to more fully understand each other.  He urged that this opportunity become a regular part of these annual conferences.

Lina Ruel (UTE) commented on the high level of support offered by the Coordinator-counsellors to all facets of the Program - the union is reassured that the external service provision piece remains an integral part of the program and is flourishing.

Shawn Bergeron (UTE) passed on regrets that he had been unable to attend the Business Meeting.  He stressed the importance of the program to employees, citing recent newspaper articles concerning studies undertaken by Linda Duxbury that indicate a high level of work dissatisfaction among older males in the Public Service.  Shawn commented that CCRA's hybrid program is working well and is much needed.

Suzanne commented that the recently released Annual EAP Report (02/03) offers evidence that the program is working well.  It is also apparent that EAP does very much more than just one-on-one counselling.  The local EAP committees, referral agents and Coordinator-counsellors are all involved in the preventive aspect of EAP, working toward both individual and organizational wellness.

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.

UTE raised the issue of the EAP InfoKit, the recently developed training tool for local EAP Advisory committee members.  They could find no record of response from the National EAP Office to their suggestions for changes that were submitted during the design and drafting consultative process.  The National EAP Office agreed to investigate and to get back to the union as soon as possible.

The unions also wondered if it would be possible to track the number of visitors to the National EAP website.  The National EAP Office agreed to enquire as to this possibility.

2)      UPDATE ON THE CONTRACTING PROJECT

The National EAP Office updated the Committee on the status of this project.  The Committee then discussed the revised options.  Marilyn Gendron, HQ Materiel Management, was in attendance and helped address some of the technical issues that arose during the discussion.

The unions concerns were that any change to the status quo might result in some areas having to change providers despite being satisfied with the service they are currently receiving.  UTE identified Montréal as an area where these concerns had been raised.

Management acknowledged the bond that is sometimes created between an office/area and a certain provider but stressed that the over-riding goal should be to obtain the best possible service for employees and not necessarily to retain the same provider.

The committee discussed other ways of reducing the administrative costs of the contracting process.  The suggestion was made that some regions that have multiple contracts with the same provider (i.e. Family Services, EAS) may be able to amalgamate those contracts into one.  The various technical implications were discussed briefly.  Management suggested that it was likely that managers in the field would show interest in this proposal, given existing budget pressures and the potential for administrative savings.

The unions' position is that the National Standing Offer option should not be considered.

The National EAP Office agreed to explore with Materiel Management the technical aspects of amalgamating multiple contracts with the same providers.  The consultation process with the regions regarding the various options as out-lined in the document at hand is ongoing.  The National EAP Office expects a resolution in this matter by the end of the fiscal year.

3)      EAP PLANNERS

The National EAP Office updated the committee on the distribution of the 2004 Planners.  In response to a union question, the committee was informed that a 2-year Braille edition of the planner is being produced by Wayne Huskins, Atlantic Region, and distributed to visually impaired employees.  The National EAP Office also mentioned the Multiple Formats Section of the Production & Distribution Division (Electronic & Print Media Directorate - Public Affairs Branch) and their mandate to produce upon request internal CCRA documents in multiple formats for employees.

A brief discussion ensued concerning the difficulty experienced by visually-impaired employees when using electronic software to 'read' bilingual documents in side-by-side column format.  The National EAP Office agreed to mention this to the network of EAP Coordinator-counsellors so that they could ensure that EAP products such as newsletters are in a user-friendly format, accessible to all employees.

4)      EAP PROMOTIONAL STRATEGY

The National EAP Office updated the committee on the status of the EAP Promotional Strategy document.  Feedback received from stakeholders has been positive and the document is almost finalized.  If any further changes are made, the final draft will be forwarded to the unions for their input.

The second draft of the revised EAP Pamphlet was sent to the unions.  The National EAP Office would like to re-examine the product in light of some of the issues that arose at the National EAP Business meeting in Rigaud in October.  It may be appropriate to highlight some of the preventive, wellness type activities that the program undertakes.  Again, if any changes are made, the unions will receive the revised draft for their input.  The National EAP Office intends to produce the pamphlet this fiscal year.

5)      TRAINING PLANS FOR 2003/2004

The National EAP Office presented a document that listed the training activities that have been held and are scheduled to be held in the current fiscal year, stating that additions were likely over the last four months of the fiscal.

The PIPSC union representative expressed his concern that the SOR Regional Conference tentatively scheduled for May 2004 was unlikely to occur, given the lack of planning to date and the reduced number of EAP Coordinator-counsellors now active in SOR.  He expressed concern that training events such as these were slipping through the cracks in SOR due to the lack of a regional forum for EAP, a forum that used to exist with the disbanded Regional EAP Committees.

The format of the recently held Atlantic Regional Conference was discussed.  The unions felt that all participants benefited from the local EAP advisory committee members and Referral Agents attending the conference together and that other regions should consider a similar format.

Management commented that it appears that all regions are active on the learning and training fronts despite the ongoing budget pressures and that they should be commended for the program support being shown and the good job being done.

The unions raised the issue of the lack of a forum for consultation concerning EAP matters at the regional levels.  The National EAP Office agreed to raise the issue with the EAP Coordinator-counsellors and with the Regional Directors of HR.

6)    UPDATE ON EAP ACTION PLAN

The National EAP Office delivered an update on the issue of formal clinical supervision for the EAP Coordinator-counsellors.  The issue was discussed at some length at the National EAP Business Meeting.

The option agreed to after consultation with the regions was for the Coordinator-counsellors to identify and contract for the required services on a local and individual level.  The cost of the services would be covered through the regions' allocated O&M budget.  Lynn Jenkins (Prairies Region - Alberta) has offered to share a draft Statement of Work (SOW) that can be used in this process.  The National EAP Office will finalize this document and forward it to all Coordinator-counsellors.

7)    BEST PRACTICES

  • The National EAP Office provided a sampling of EAP activities that have occurred over the last six months and that are planned for this fiscal year:
  • The 2002/2003 Report indicates the large number of information sessions that are carried out on a regular basis in all regions.
  • Atlantic Region has again identified a specific week (February 2-6, 2004) as EAP Week in their region.  Funds will be provided to local committees from the regionally allocated EAP budget and EAP, health and wellness themed activities will be held across the region during the week.  The Wellness Challenge was very successful in 2003 and will be held once again in 2004.  Enough advance notice was given so as to enable including their EAP Week in the 2004 EAP Planner.
  • Some offices in the Quebec Region ensure that promotional and prevention material is made available to Customs Inspectors and others on shift work, who may not be able to attend regularly scheduled information sessions due to their work schedules.  These areas arrange that brown-bag lunch sessions are video-taped and that the tapes are made available to those employees.
  • The EAP Coordinator-counsellor at Headquarters was involved with Customs Branch at HQ in piloting a workplace wellness assessment tool, the Business Health Culture Index (BHCI) to a group of senior managers.  The Coordinator-counsellor network have received training and will be making this tool available to CCRA managers.
  • The Coordinator-counsellor at Rigaud has developed a short handout dealing with stress that is made available to all participants in the CIRTP program.
  • The Toronto Centre/East EAP Coordinator-counsellor initiated a pilot project involving the Canadian Mental Health Association.  EAP committee members, RAs, managers and union representatives are reviewing an information session on this subject.  The session will eventually be offered to staff, free of charge.  Asian Heritage Month activities were held during the month of May at the Toronto East and Centre TSOs.  In addition, a Wellness Fair was held at these offices over a 2-day period in May.
  • Coordinator-counsellors in most areas offer tailored training to meet the needs of their client managers.
  • In Windsor/Sarnia, the Coordinator-counsellor tasks the referral agents in each of her areas with being responsible for identifying and working to meet their training needs (identifying resources, arranging training etc.). The Coordinator-counsellor sends the information to the relevant managers detailing the costs etc and requesting permission for all the training/time off work /costs for the rest of the year.  The benefits of this approach are:
    • time efficiency as the managers are addressed only once and they can see the total outlay (cost & time) at one glance;
    • learning for the RAs as they gain more knowledge of community resources as they organize these seminars and also address their own training needs and experience;
    • allows for some valuable sharing of training between the different groups;  Sarnia/Windsor training was planned for Sarnia so London RA's could attend;
    • the training is treated like a meeting in that minutes are taken (a valuable skill in itself) and volunteers not able to attend are able to read up on what they missed;
    • agents know that they have priority in the EAP system (motivational factor) when their needs are addressed early and with their input (especially important when dealing with people new to the role).
  • The EAP has been involved in the development of management training for the MG group.  Coordinator-counsellors from HQ and Québec Region worked on modules dealing with EAP; the National EAP Office continues to work with Training & Learning on this project.

8)      EAP COVERAGE FOR RETIRED EMPLOYEES

This agenda item was put forward by PIPSC at the previous meeting of the Committee.  The National EAP Office briefly addressed the subject with the committee.

Management suggested that given the focus on individual and organizational wellness, this might be a good time to propose such an initiative.

The unions commented that the initiative would be of relatively little cost but would have the potential for a high return through employee goodwill.

The National EAP Office agreed to update existing data that it has related to projected costs and will move forward with this proposal.

9)      STATISTICS

All committee members have been provided with the 2002-2003 Annual Report as well as the compiled data from which the report was developed.

The unions pointed out regional variations in the utilization rates, with some regions showing significantly lower usage than the norm.  The National EAP office agreed, pointing out, however, that the regions of relatively low utilization had shown usage increases over the past two years.

The committee discussed the fact that significantly more women than men access the program.  It was noted that this has been historically consistent for CCRA's program and an observed phenomenon of the industry; women are more likely to seek help with their issues from an EAP than men.  The committee agreed that it was important to continue to promote the program as available to all and to eliminate any barriers, real or perceived, which may be hindering access by any group of our employees.

10)      UTE MEMBERSHIP SURVEY

UTE conducted a member survey earlier in the year.  They shared the results of the three questions pertaining to EAP.

They found the survey results to be very positive, especially in terms of awareness of the Program.  They highlighted the high level of awareness among members about the existence of local EAP committees (89%).  UTE also stated that it was very important to ensure that all employees were exposed regularly to EAP orientation sessions, especially new employees (such as those entering the CIRTP program), given the level of stress being experiences by so many of our employees.

It was observed that the data from the study indicates that older males are less likely to see the EAP as important to them.  Older males do form a fairly significant demographic group within CCRA. This ties in with the observed discrepancy in program use between men and women (see previous agenda item).

11)      FUNDING OF EAP

PIPSC raised the issue of the reduced number of active EAP Coordinator-counsellors in the Southern Ontario Region and the accompanying increase in their respective areas of responsibility.  PIPSC feels the service reorganization may result in increased costs being downloaded to the external EAP contracts and wonders if there may come a day when local contract spending has to be capped.  They feel that the Coordinator-counsellors will not have the time to deliver counselling services and that employees requesting those services will be referred to external contract providers.  The union does not want local EAP contract funding to be jeopardized through the shift in responsibilities of the Coordinator-counsellors.  PIPSC raised the issue of whether the program might be better served by funding external EAP contracts centrally and from the national level.

Management spoke of the value of having the funding at the local level, the fact that local management feels the benefits of the services delivered.  EAP is perceived as an important program and this value protects it from budget pressures that might otherwise affect it.  Management agreed that it was important to monitor the situation and to react quickly to any problems that arise.  Management also mentioned that the latest national consultations with regard to HR budgets indicate clearly that the EAP program is highly regarded.

12)      NATIONAL EAP BUSINESS MEETING UPDATE

The National EAP Office gave a brief overview of the meeting.

UTE commented on the value of having the National EAP Advisory Committee members and Barbara Cattelan (HR, SOR) in attendance.  UTE appreciated Barbara's observations and input.

The National EAP Office indicated that it would consider increasing the regional management presence at the next meeting, suggesting that the Regional Directors of HR may be interested in attending.

CLOSING REMARKS/ROUND TABLE

Jill LaRose apologized for her late arrival and thanked everybody.

The unions expressed their appreciation for a good meeting.

The next meeting was tentatively scheduled for May 5, 2004.

Suzanne Gorley thanked the parties for their participation and wished them all a safe journey home.

  • Jill LaRose
  • Director General, Strategic Branch Management and Program Support Directorate
  • Human Resources Branch
  • Eunice Trainor
  • 3rd National Vice-President 
  • CEUDA
  • John Benbow
  • EAP Representative
  • PIPSC
  • Shawn Bergeron
  • Regional Vice-President
  • UTE