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.

As you evaluate the situation, your EAP is experienced and we're here to help. Our EAP experts will help you develop a plan, such as a mandatory referral. 87% of referrals successfully complete their plan and are retained in the workforce, saving the employer the time and cost of employee turnover.

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

Managing others can be inspiring and fulfilling, but sometimes complex and challenging situations will arise. FCH EAP is your front-line support team when dealing with tough HR questions. The opportunity for your HR team and other leaders to speak with an expert at any time is one of our most valuable tools for organizations. Contact us today for more information!


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.


We have an employee we hear is having personal problems at home. We believe his marriage is in trouble and one of his children was recently arrested. Even though he continues to do a good job at work, we believe he would benefit from counseling. Can we make a mandatory referral for him?

No. Unless the employee is exhibiting problems in their workplace performance, attendance or productivity, a mandatory referral is not appropriate. Instead, we recommend that the supervisor informally remind the employee of the resources available through the EAP and give them the EAP contact information. The EAP is also available to the supervisor to discuss the situation and consult about how to approach the employee and to review available EAP resources. We encourage organizations to contact the EAP any time to discuss questions or concerns about resources and responding to employee needs. 


Get in touch with us!

For consultation and hands on personal support as you consider using the Mandatory Referral program, contact First Choice Health EAP to discuss circumstances and next steps. Licensed clinical staff are here to advise our clients as they navigate the process. 


Julee Clark - Senior Clinical Account Executive

Julee has been with First Choice Health EAP since 2011. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and manages the EAP Mandatory Referral program with her business accounts. Her prior roles include serving as the Education Director for the local Alzheimer's Association for 9 years, and as School Reintegration Coordinator for UCLA Medical Center and Children's Hospital Los Angeles in pediatric oncology. Julee is also a Disaster Mental Health Volunteer with the American Red Cross and served at Ground Zero in New York after the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. She has been in private practice for over 25 years specializing in chronic illness, eldercare, trauma response, and marital and family crisis.