The counselling advice service ICAS has launched an employee assistance programme (EAP) for companies with fewer than 100 employees.
The new product, Interact, offers unlimited access to confidential telephone counselling for all employees and their spouse or partner. In addition it provides information and support on debt and legal problems and face-to-face counselling.
Companies also receive regular employment law updates and access to other employment-related information.
The cost varies from £1,500 to £4,000, depending on the size of the company.
According to ICAS, EAPs are usually beyond the budget of companies with fewer than 100 employees but Interact has been specifically designed for smaller organisations.
By using a number of economies of scale and keeping marketing costs to a minimum, ICAS believes its product offers “a high quality service at a cost-effective price”.
Sickness absence costs business around £438 per worker each year, according to the Confederation of British Industry, with stress the second most important cause of absence.
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees are not made ill by their work and the Health and Safety Executive recommends that they provide as much support as possible.
Interact representative Keith Burns said: “This type of service should have a major impact on the health and welfare of smaller companies.
“If it helps retain just one employee, it will have paid for itself many times over. Some health insurance companies offer a ten per cent reduction to their premiums where a company introduces an EAP, appreciating the value of such a service in reducing long-term sickness claims.
“It could be that the ten per cent could actually cover the cost of Interact.”