The Employee Assistance Programme, just launched by Hospitality Action, is a lifeline to anyone working in hospitality who needs support, advice or a sympathetic ear. Hannah Thompson reports
And when you realise you can't take it anymore, what do you do? That's where Hospitality Action comes in. For over 175 years, the industry charity has been helping employees and their relatives cope when things don't go to plan, and now there's a new, even easier way to make sure your staff know where to go for help.
This week, Hospitality Action has launched the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), a new initiative that works like a safety net for people working in hospitality.
Businesses large and small can sign up their employees to the scheme for as little as £5 a head, and each person then receives a booklet letting them know who to call if they find themselves in difficulty. Employees don't have to use it, but it's there if they want it.
The scheme is especially tailored towards people working in hospitality, with phone lines and a web-chat service open 24 hours, 365 days a year, ensuring that even the busiest kitchen porter working the dinner service on Christmas Day can reach a helpful ear when it suits them.
Since launch, over 200 people have called the helpline, asking for advice on everything from stress and alcohol addiction to credit card debt and sleep problems.
The scheme offers access to one-to-one counselling, legal advice, and even financial support if required.
Last year, it spent over half a million pounds on benevolent aid to employees across the UK, helping around 1,600 people in need - from offering funds for unexpected costs such as making a home wheelchair-accessible, to paying for a family member's funeral.
The new EAP aims to make this service more visible and available to all employees, whether they're one of thousands in a big national chain or part of a small team at an independent hotel, single-site restaurant or foodservice firm.
Patrick Dempsey, Hospitality Action patron and managing director of hospitality giant Whitbread, helped test the new programme across 4,000 of the company's employees.
Over the trial period, the charity received 186 calls from across the Costa, Premier Inn and restaurant business brands, of which several required some form of financial assistance.
It's a win-win: staff can address problems they may not want to discuss with colleagues, and their colleagues can rest assured that if the worst happens, they have someone else to ask.
Introducing the programme to all employees also means the stigma of asking for help is reduced, and employees are more likely to be aware of the services on offer.
Calls are anonymous, which is especially significant when it comes to services such as the whistleblowing programme, which staff can use if they suspect misconduct.
At a speech to the 21st Master Innholders General Managers' conference on 21 January, Dempsey described the Whitbread trial run as very positive. He said: "People have commented that they had had great support, and that helpline staff were very quick to get back to them." He added that although he believes "the EAP works very well for big business", he would also recommend the scheme to smaller firms with just a few employees.
Indeed, over 70,000 people - from companies big and small â' have already signed up to the EAP since it launched, and the scheme is now ready to be rolled out nationally.
The team is aiming to get over 150,000 people enrolled into the programme this year, with a long-term view to reaching as many of the UK hospitality industry's 3m workers as possible. This could make a huge difference, not just to the charity, but most importantly, to the employees it could help.
"We wondered how to make Hospitality Action more relevant and have more impact," said Dempsey. "This is it: a world-class programme, developed to support our industry, by hospitality people for hospitality people."
The Hospitality Action phone lines and web assistance are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on 0808 802 2111 or hospitalityaction.org.uk.
You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the whistleblowing hotline is 0808 801 0351.
Top 10 reasons people get in touch 1. Stress
2. Anger management
3. Low mood and depression
5. Bullying and harassment
7. Alcohol support
8. Money pressures
9. Tiredness and sleep problems
10. Resilience and wellbeing
Hospitality action facts and figures
175 years - Amount of time the charity has been around
3 million - Number of people working in hospitality in the UK
11,000 - Number of students reached via HA educational talks in colleges
1,650 - Number of people helped in 2013
£1.2m - Money raised by the charity per year
24/7, 365 days a year - When the phone lines and webchat are open
William Baxter CBE - Chair of Board of Trustees, Hospitality Action
"The Employee Assistance Programme was launched to ensure that Hospitality Action, the industry's charity, helps as many as possible of the three million people who work in hospitality who may need our support.
"It is a practical and cost-effective way for employers to help their employees in times of personal crisis, whatever the cause. I would urge everyone to take up this initiative."
Patrick Dempsey OBE - Patron of Hospitality Action, and managing director of Whitbread
"Hospitality Action's Employee Assistance Programme has been developed by hospitality experts to suit the needs of employees within our demanding industry.
"At Whitbread we carried out a trial of the scheme and experienced a high level of employee usage with very positive feedback from management and staff regarding the service and advice given. I am delighted that we have now adopted the programme across the whole of the Whitbread estate - over 40,000 employees - and we are extremely happy with the service.
"Businesses who subscribe to the scheme will also be supporting the hospitality industry's charity, enabling them to continue with their vital work."
Penny Moore, chief executive, Hospitality Action
"Personal issues and problems can have a major impact on the way people work, and this can potentially become a significant business cost, due to a decrease in productivity and an unbalanced working environment. Our experience shows that many small problems, if nipped in the bud, can be prevented from escalating, and this
is exactly what our EAP has been designed to address. We already have some fantastic companies on board with the scheme, and I look forward to seeing new signatories joining up in the coming weeks and months."