Everyone, at some point in their life, needs a little help. Whether it’s with lifting something heavy up the stairs to their new flat, a niggling mental health issue, or a legal problem, it’s always nice to feel that someone has your back and can give you some support.

While an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can’t help with the heavy lifting, it's ideal for the other two on that list. EAPs include a 24/7, 365 telephone helpline, online support and smartphone apps to offer help and guidance with mental and physical health issues – stress and anxiety are especially common.

But people often aren’t aware that EAPs can provide guidance with legal matters too.

Legal information from an EAP

EAPs can offer legal information and signposting for common, minor issues, to help save you time, money and stress – after all, sometimes small issues can snowball, so sorting them out before they become more serious is certainly beneficial.

There are some limitations to be aware of, for example, they wouldn’t be able to read through a contract for you or represent you in court.

Let’s look at a few of the things you can call your EAP about and ask for help with.

Bereavement, wills and probate

It’s never easy dealing with the death of a loved one. The initial emotional impact can throw even the hardiest and most stoic of us off our game – grief, after all, is one of the most powerful and unpredictable life events we can experience.

This is a time when even a little help and guidance is welcome. Sadly, bereavement brings with it a host of complexities. Organising a funeral, sorting out estates, will and testament, the process of probate —these can be very difficult for a grieving person to manage. It’s not easy to keep a clear head when emotions are high, but calling an EAP could help.

While ultimately the arrangements need to be carried out by those responsible, general guidance on key stages of probate, letters of administration, and funeral arrangements is available. Plus, when someone is at their lowest in the grieving process, the helpful counselling services of an EAP can mean a lot, too.

Divorce, separation and contact with children

This is an area where an EAP can outline options available, potential next steps and good processes to follow.

It’s important to clarify that an EAP advisor won’t be able to offer binding advice and solutions, but they will be very knowledgeable on where to go next, who to speak to and the correct way to go about these things. And speaking to someone friendly, with good, authoritative knowledge can help clear the mind and help you figure out what to do next. 

Tenancy and boundary disputes

Disputes and issues over the living spaces we occupy are common and, for the most part, people don’t know what their rights are, or where to turn in the event of a dispute.

An EAP advisor will listen carefully to the problem before offering general guidance and information about what to do next, for example mediation, rights, or how to appoint a solicitor.

The responsibilities of an EAP

To protect the service user, there are important rules that an EAP must follow regarding legal information, as set out by the EAPA:

  • All calls must be screened for emotional issues before legal information can be presented. This means there is no dedicated legal information line – people must speak with a counsellor first. Likewise, legal specialists with no knowledge of carrying out an initial EAP assessment cannot answer the helpline as a first point of contact
  • Legal information must be presented as general advice, and not customised to the individual’s circumstance – it should concentrate on signposting the correct, actionable next steps as required
  • Legal information can only be provided once on a given subject. No follow up calls are permitted, as an EAP is not ongoing legal support
  • Legal staff at an EAP are not permitted to read/review documentation or offer second opinions on an ongoing case

Despite the restrictions, calling an EAP helpline for information is a great first step to taking legal matters by the reins, and gaining control over them. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help – 24/7, 365.

To find out more about how an EAP can support your employees, please visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/business/employer-paid/asset/employee-assistance-programme or email appointments@sovereignhealthcare.co.uk

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