Workplace Options, a fast-growing Raleigh company that specializes in dispensing personal and legal advice to workers around the world, has announced the third major acquisition in its 35-year history with expansions into France and Belgium.
The privately-held company, which has 15 offices and about 720 employees around the world, has purchased competitors ICAS France and ICAS Belgium for an undisclosed price.
“They sought us out. We’re known as an acquirer,” said Dean Debnam, the majority owner and CEO of Workplace Options.
Debnam became CEO of Workplace Options in 1993 when the company, which was founded by his ex-wife Stephanie Fanjul, had three employees and focused on business consulting. Workplace Options is now one of the largest employee assistance providers in the United States and provides services for more than 70,000 organizations in the world. Its services include virtual group counseling, a rapid response crisis hotline, aging life care coaching, lactation assistants, wellness coaching, health screenings and other services.
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The new acquisitions adds about two dozen workers in Europe, but much of the company’s growth has been taking place in Raleigh, where Workplace Options employs 403 people. It hired 75 people for its Raleigh office in the past year and plans to add at least 75 more in the coming year. The company is hiring clinicians, social workers, researchers and other positions, Debnam said.
The company has also been hiring around the world. Earlier this year, it expanded in Dubai and in recent years the company has expanded in Portugal, France and India. In 2006, Workplace Options acquired Employee Advisory Resources in the United Kingdom, the company’s first acquisition. The following year Workplace Options bought an Irish employee assistance company.
ICAS France and ICAS Belgium were founded in 1998 and 1999, respectively, providing emotional and psychological support for employees in those countries. Workplace Options said the acquisition will give the ICAS units Workplace Options’ 24/7 global clinical answer service and mobile apps.
Debnam, a Raleigh political activist, also owns Public Policy Polling and Ultimate Supplies, a manufacturer of equipment for car washes. Debnam generated attention last year when he sued the city of Raleigh for placing a 5-story height cap on a part of Fayetteville St. that contains the 3-story Boylan Pearce Building that Debnam owns and plans to develop. In 2015, he was active in efforts to stop the spread of bars in downtown Raleigh that he said were increasing public drunkenness and late-night noise.
His activism extends to his company. Last year, Workplace Options rolled out a service for low-wage workers in Indonesia that provides safety training, pregnancy advice, dietary advice and other information. The service was piloted for two years with shoe company Nike, Debnam said.
The service offered in Indonesia also tracks the compliance of contract factory owners on a range of issues – overtime pay, working conditions, sexual harassment – by providing the workers a way to submit anonymous complaints that bypasses the factory owners and reaches the brand-name corporations whose products are manufactured by the workers.
This year Workplace Options introduced a slavery prevention service in Malaysia in factories that hire migrant workers from Indonesia, Myanmar and elsewhere, Debnam said. This service sends text messages to the workers’ cell phones alerting them of common abuses, such as demanding that migrant workers pay for their jobs, or that the migrants give up their passports while they are employed. Workplace Options is providing this service to the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, which represents electronics manufacturers.