SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Employee Support Programme - Guidance Notes

1. Statement of Principles

1.1 The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) values the vital contribution that all members of staff make to the success of this institution. The provision of an Employee Support Programme (ESP) is a practical way of demonstrating that the School has a sincere interest in the well being of its members of staff.

1.2 Personal problems are recognised as conditions which can be overcome. ESP is a programme through which SOAS members of staff can access appropriate professional/specialist assistance for a wide range of problems.

1.3 ESP is specifically designed to assist staff who are experiencing personal problems, which may be affecting their work, to seek help. It can also be used to help staff explore personal strategies for coping with stress and workplace change. It cannot, however, be used to address purely work-related problems.

1.4 SOAS recognises that early intervention increases the chances of successfully overcoming personal problems and encourages staff to make full use of the ESP.

1.5 The programme contains the following key features:

  • Self-referral will not affect job security, promotion, or any other privilege of any person accepting and successfully completing the recommendations made by the ESP professional;
  • The programme is available to all members of staff who are eligible for a SOAS staff ID card - in any location, throughout all levels of the organisation, and including any immediate family members who have personal problems which affect or are likely to affect an members of staff's work;
  • All employee information given to the ESP Provider(s) is treated confidentially;
  • The School will meet the cost of the Employee Support Helpline and online support, which is available to all members of staff and their immediate dependants;
  • Support on a range of issues including financial, legal, relationships, family care, work and medical advice.

1.6 Members of staff cannot use the programme to avoid performance management procedures, disciplinary or grievance procedures.

1.7 The School has currently contracted an independent organisation to provide our ESP to encourage and assist members of staff with personal problems to seek help. Many of these difficulties, including relationship issues, stress, emotional and family problems, are responsive to treatment and rehabilitation.

1.8 The ESP provides:

  • 0800 Employee Support Helpline telephone number;
  • one to one counselling;
  • Manager and staff awareness briefings;
  • Confidential intervention, assessment and referral services;
  • Regular statistical evaluation and analysis of the programme's usage based on anonymous data;
  • Emergency and critical incident services;
  • Programme literature, both online and paper-based.

1.9 The ESP is designed to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and wellness. It is not intended in any way to alter the School’s responsibility or authority. The ESP ensures that members of staff at all levels in the School have the opportunity to obtain professional help in an atmosphere of privacy and confidentiality. Participation in the ESP will not affect future employment or career advancement, nor will participation prevent performance management procedures being followed where applicable. However, the acceptance of help through the ESP in such a situation will be regarded as a positive step towards addressing issues, which may be impacting on the workplace.

1.10 The ESP is one strategy through which the School can maintain and enhance the health, well-being and performance of its staff. The School recognises that personal problems do impact on the workplace. The ESP is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the workplace environment by providing professional help for members of staff whenever they need it. People experiencing personal concerns, which affect their work, will receive assistance in a manner which places emphasis on confidentiality, self-initiative and prevention.

2. Programme Co-ordination

2.1 The ESP is co-ordinated by the Human Resources Directorate. This function  is primarily an administrative one, and whilst there may be an involvement in referring members of staff to the ESP, individual cases are not disclosed or discussed.

2.1 Key co-ordinator responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining the integrity of the system and programme;
  • Ensuring that the ongoing promotion of the programme meets the needs of the organisation;
  • Contract management / Liaison with the ESP provider;
  • Evaluation of the programme through anonymous usage statistics.


3. Confidentiality

3.1 Within the normal applicable limits, confidentiality is assured to all members of staff who use ESP services. Only the ESP counsellor and the staff member will have access to the personal information provided.

3.2 Individual records will be restricted to the minimum information required to serve the member of staff and will be maintained in such a way as required by the professional body governing the performance of the counsellors.

3.3 The only records available to the SOAS will be anonymous data collected for statistical use and these will be kept without any individual or identifying reference. No information shared with the ESP counsellor will ever be placed on a member of staff's personal file at the School. All record keeping will observe the normal conventions with regards to confidentiality. No individual names are identified or disclosed in the invoicing process.

3.4 All counselling sessions are held away from the workplace.

4. Eligibility and Entitlement

4.1 All members of staff who are eligible for a SOAS staff ID card, and their immediate dependants may use the programme.

4.2 A member of staff and their immediate dependants are entitled to unlimited use of the telephone Employee Support Helpline and internet service. Counselling sessions on a self referral basis are paid for by the member of staff.  Subject to budget constraints, where the School's Occupational Health provider recommends counselling or a referral is made through the Human Resources Directorate, a limited number of counselling sessions may be funded by the School.  School approval for meeting these and any additional costs will be made on a case-by-case basis.  However, should a member of staff require referral to a specialist agency, the additional costs involved will have to be met by the member of staff.

5. Referrals

5.1 The Employee Support Programme is designed to encourage staff members to make use of the service, as they require them.  The programme accepts the following types of referrals:

  • Self referrals - a staff member, worried about a personal problem can seek help through ESP of his/her own accord;
  • Manager’s recommendation - Managers have a responsibility for the pastoral care of their staff as well as to monitor and manage their work performance.  When a manager notices that an individual's work performance has markedly deteriorated, she/he can encourage the employee to participate in the ESP as part of a performance management strategy, which is discussed with the employee.  The manager is the key to the success of this type of referral;
  • Suggested or informal referral - a member of staff seeks help at the suggestion of a colleague, employee representative or manager (not as part of a performance management situation);
  • Family or Other referral – where a manager or ESP Provider may be contacted by a family member outside of the workplace who is concerned about a relative who works for SOAS, the advice of the designated HR Manager should be sought.


5.2 No reports will be made back to the referral source without the express written consent of the member of staff concerned.

6. Employee Support Helpline and Website

6.1 ESP has a 24 hour, 7 day access Employee Support Helpline, allowing members of staff and their immediate dependants to contact someone at any time of the day or night, seven days a week.

  • The free phone line number is 0800 282 193.
  • Minicom users should call 0800 0854739 (this service will not be charged).
  • Employees who are outside the UK should call +44 1865 397074 (calls will be charged).


6.2 The ESP also provide a web based service, PPC Online which is accessed through

  • Enter Username and Password (available from your designated HR Officer)

7. ESP Contacts

Programme Co-ordinator: Human Resources Manager (Team 3), Human Resources Directorate
ESP Provider: PPC Worldwide, PPC Head Office, 4200 Nash Court, Oxford OX4 2RU.

Updated: 22 March 2011