Mandatory Referral When to refer employees to the EAP

Employees need help. When facing the possibility that one of your employees may be suffering with mental health issues, or alcohol or substance abuse issues, it can be a tense and uncomfortable time for everyone involved. It's a topic that can often be difficult to navigate. By the time a problem becomes evident in the workplace, employee performance, attendance and safety on the job may already have been impacted. Risk of job loss may be imminent.

Evaluate the situation - your EAP is experienced and we're here to help. 

Managers have three types of EAP referrals available: educational, informal, mandatory (or formal) referral. You can read more about the differences, and when to use each type, in our blog post here. In some cases, a fitness for duty assessment may be warranted, which is conducted by a medical professional, not EAP.

Depending on the situation and employee behavior, a mandatory referral may be the recommended course of action to address and correct an employee's behavior and help him/her retain their job.


How do Mandatory Referrals work?


Are Mandatory Referrals only for drug/alcohol abuse?

No. While the majority of referrals are as a result of an employee's violation of a company's drug-free workplace policy, the program can be used for workplace performance and behavioral concerns. Often the EAP can discover that something in the employee's personal life is contributing to the unwanted behavior, and the EAP will work with the employee to resolve their issue.


What are the benefits of a Mandatory Referral?

The goal is to help employees improve performance and resolve issues so they can be successful at work. The MR may also support the employee's general mental and physical well-being in the process.


When should a Mandatory Referral be used?

A formal referral to the EAP is typically initiated in response to violations of behavioral, performance, attendance, or drug-alcohol policies in the workplace. Although it's often used as a last chance agreement with risk of termination, it may help an employee retain his or her job in times of progressive disciplinary action. Read our blog post for more information.


Challenging HR situations - How and when to use EAP referrals


One of our employees with a CDL tested positive on a random Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test. What are our next steps? 

The Company Designated Employee Representative (DER) who was notified of the positive drug test result should contact the EAP to initiate a mandatory referral. DOT regulations require that the employee be removed from safety sensitive duties and undergo an evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). Once the employee contacts the EAP, we will connect the employee to the Substance Abuse Professional. It is the responsibility of the SAP to conduct the evaluation, make a recommendation as to whether treatment is necessary and to determine when the employee can again be returned to safety sensitive duties. The EAP will monitor the employee's compliance with any treatment once the SAP has returned them to their safety sensitive duties.


We referred an employee to the EAP mandatory referral program as a result of ongoing absences. The employee was evaluated by the EAP and is currently seeing a counselor to deal with this problem. We are concerned that the employee continues to miss work. What is our next step?

When an employee is referred to the EAP as a mandatory referral, it is understood that the employee's problematic performance or behavior needs to change, regardless of the outcome of counseling assessment through the EAP. Progressive discipline up to and including termination of employment is generally the next step made by the employer when an employee's performance or behavior has not changed.