What to Do When an Employee Needs Substance Abuse Treatment

As of 2007, 60% or 12 million of adults classified as having substance abuse or dependence issues were employed full-time. As substance abusers’ employers and addicts themselves know, addiction can result in more employee absences, lower productivity, poor job performance, higher health care costs, injuries and illness, safety concerns, and workplace tension.

Fortunately,  research on substance abuse treatment by the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that programs are just as effective as treatments designed for other chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure.As an employer or HR manager, you should be prepared and receptive when an employee struggling with addiction approaches you to discuss substance abuse treatment.  Treatment is in the best interests of both your employee and your company.

How to Approach an Employee’s Substance Abuse Treatment

Understanding Addiction & Substance Abuse Treatment

There are many social stigmas associated with addiction, and as a result many people don’t understand that substance abuse must be treated as a chronic disorder and not an acute disease. Effective substance abuse treatment will include detoxification to lessen the effects of withdrawal, acute care involving behavioral therapies, and continued care and maintenance.

Substance abuse treatment must also take place for a sufficient duration and intensity to better ensure your employee’s continued abstinence following their program. Generally, outpatient substance abuse What to Do When an Employee Needs Substance Abuse Treatmenttreatment programs are more successful when longer than 90 days — those under 90 days have little to no effectiveness.

Substance abuse treatment may include:

  • Inpatient care
  • Intensive outpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • Residential substance abuse treatment programs
  • Community support programs, like the 12-step program

Protections Under the Family & Medical Leave Act

Employees pursuing substance abuse treatment have rights under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that employers and HR representatives must understand. Enacted in 1993, the FMLA qualified employees the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. Reasons for taking FMLA-granted leave include substance abuse treatment if it is suggested and administered by a health care provider. Upon their return, employees pursuing substance abuse treatment under FMLA must be offered their former position or a position equal in pay, benefits, and responsibility.

Return-to-Work Agreements

Some drug-free workplace policies require that employees must undergo substance abuse treatment as a condition of their continued employment. In this case, you should draw up a Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA) outlining your expectations upon the employee’s program completion as well as their medical professional’s expectations. The RTWA will also include any consequences that will result from unmet expectations.
To develop a RTWA, you’ll need to:
  • Coordinate with the employee receiving substance abuse treatment, their union (if applicable), and the health care providers involved in the substance abuse treatment program
  • Ensure that your RTWA is in compliance with company policies, legal obligations, and recommendations from medical professionals.

With an RTWA, both you and your employee will be on the same page when it comes to their reentry to the job force after substance abuse treatment.

Get Comprehensive Substance Abuse Screenings

The wellness of your employees should always be a chief concern. If you suspect that your employees may have addictions that necessitate substance abuse treatment, completing workplace testing for drugs and alcohol is the first step toward helping them recover. Find the ARCpoint location near you to schedule testing today.

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