Employee Assistance Programmes and Occupational Social Work were established to help employees deal with life tasks, thus the disciplines view the employee as a sole client system. Consequently, there is a clear link between the two disciplines. However, a theoretical and practical comparison between them still lacks in literature. For this reason, the researcher saw a need for a research study that would conceptualise Employee Assistance Programmes and Occupational Social Work in theory and in practice. The current study was carried out to investigate the two disciplines in an attempt to deduce a contrast between them. Similarly, the goal of the study was to compare Employee Assistance Programmes and Occupational Social Work in order to explore and describe the similarities and differences.
A qualitative research approach was utilised in the study to explore and understand the meanings that participants attributed to EAPs and OSW in practice. The researcher used the random sampling method to choose participants from the data base of EAP professionals/practitioners and Occupational Social Workers provided by the Employee Assistance Programmes Association of South Africa and the South African Occupational Social Work Association. The data was collected from a small sample of 13 participants. E-mail interviews were used to gain an understanding of the participants’ experiences and thoughts on their respective fields. An interview schedule was used as a guide during the interview. The data was then organised, thematically and systematically analysed and interpreted.
The empirical findings on Employee Assistance Programmes and Occupational Social Work indicated distinct similarities and differences between the two disciplines. The similarities between the two disciplines were in relation to the types of employee issues that they deal with, workplace services and programmes, service objectives and therapeutic approaches utilised. The differences, on the other hand, were related to the practice and service delivery models and the notion that the one is seen as more of a profession than the other.
The current study demonstrated the necessity of a research study in this specific area. The research successfully identified and described the similarities and differences between the two disciplines and therefore contributes to the body of knowledge and to future research studies.