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Date: February 8 2012

NEW YORK, February 8, 2012Harris, Rothenberg International (HRI), a leading employee/employer resource firm, today issued a new workplace insight noting an increase of 120 percent in management referrals and fitness-for-duty evaluations over the past four years.  In 2008, the volume of these referrals averaged 23.3 per month.  By 2011, that number had increased to 51.2 per month, without a significant increase in the total number of employees covered by EAP services.
The growth of referrals in these types of extreme circumstances underscores the increasingly stressful work environments experienced by many employees, as well as a heavy reliance on Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help manage difficult employee situations and provide risk mitigation, according to HRI experts. Fitness-for-duty evaluations are generally precipitated by a crisis in the workplace, such as suicidality, potential for violence towards others, psychosis or other mental breakdowns triggered by extreme stress at home or at work.
“Return-to -work and fitness-for-duty evaluations are a by-product of workplace stress,” explains HRI’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Randy Martin.  “It signifies that an employee has crossed a threshold and that their mental and emotional well-being must be carefully considered before allowing them to return back to the workplace.  This is yet another clinical marker of the tremendous stress that the economic downturn has placed on employees.  As a result, managers and other corporate leaders are recognizing the importance of EAP services to help manage these difficult employee situations if not head them off entirely.”
HRI experts note that due to the economic downturn, employees are reluctant to take short-term disability, vacation time, and are even skipping lunch breaks for fear of losing their jobs.  Work/Life balance is not a priority, with many skimping on sleep, exercise, therapy, or family time, and the resulting stress is taking its toll.  Dr. Martin and the experts at HRI recommend the following steps to understanding and approaching employee issues like fitness-for-duty evaluations:
  • Address concerning behaviors you see in employees early on, linking them to mental health resources like their EAP and to Work/Life programs
  • Encourage the use of your company’s time off and sick leave policies, as well as other benefits that will help the wellness of employees
  • Train managers on recognizing the signs of mental health and substance abuse distress, and give them tools for helping their supervisees
  • Offer mental health screenings in employee health and benefits fairs
  • Incorporate wellness, resilience, and morale-enhancing events into the workplace, such as social gatherings, teambuilding exercises, and yoga/fitness/nutrition clubs or services.
  • Promote company benefits often so employees make use of the resources available to them.
“With luck, as the economy recovers and work/life balance is restored, we will see the incidence of these calls return to the levels we’ve seen prior to the economic crisis,” notes Dr. Martin. “Employers need to reinforce with their employees that there are resources available to help them deal with and manage stress, at both the home and the office, before problems escalate to the point where a fitness-for-duty evaluation becomes necessary.”
Harris, Rothenberg International, Inc.: Harris, Rothenberg International (HRI) offers an array of comprehensive, integrated human resource programs and services designed to maximize organizational and employee performance. Founded in 1982, HRI is a pioneer and acknowledged leader in the field of HR strategy, leadership development, and employee productivity. We partner with clients of all sizes and all industries, from Fortune 100 companies to privately held businesses and nonprofit organizations. HRI is recognized as the standard by which EAPs and other HR consulting firms are judged. For more information visit us online at or call 800-441-7509.

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