Employee Assistance and Rehab
As alcohol and drug addiction exists within all levels of American society, it’s not uncommon for several employees within a workplace to battle addiction problems on an ongoing basis. If you find it difficult to get to work or concentrate at work after a bout with alcohol or drugs, it may be time to look into addiction rehab options before a bad situation becomes worse.
One option to consider may actually be your employer’s human resources department. Many businesses offer Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, through their human resource departments or through third-party agencies.
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If you need help with addiction treatment, these programs may provide the type of assistance needed to get treatment while maintaining your employment status.
What Are Employment Assistance Programs?
If an alcohol or drug addiction problem gets to the point where you need to take a leave of absence, it’s always best to go through an employer’s EAP when possible. In most cases, your supervisor will refer you to the Employee Assistance Program whenever a leave of absence is requested. This gives EAP representatives a chance to properly assess your situation and draw up a treatment plan.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholismdescribes EAPs as fulfilling four main roles within a company:
- Employee education and training
- Confidential employee record-keeping
- Drug treatment counseling
- Assistance with accessing drug treatment services
To start out, the EAP representative may set up anywhere from three to five counseling sessions to determine your particular treatment needs. EAP reps then use this information to develop a long-term treatment plan that incorporates your job schedule and work responsibilities. Both in-house and third-party agency EAPs are equipped to provide the same service benefits to company employees.
Prevalence of Alcohol/ Drug Users in the Workplace
According to the Drugabuse.gov website, an estimated 75 percent of people who suffer with alcohol or drug addiction issues currently hold down a job in the United States within any given year. Over time, employees battling addiction begin to exhibit certain behaviors or patterns in the workplace. Some of the most common behaviors observed include:
- Frequent tardy incidents
- Missed work days
- Drops in productivity
- More likely to be involved in a workplace accident
- Workers’ compensation claim filings
- Frequent job changes
ADA and FMLA Protections
The Adults With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are two federal laws that protect employee rights within the workplace. ADA provisions prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who have known disabilities. As alcohol addiction is classified as a medical condition, ADA provisions apply for someone who struggles with an alcohol addiction. ADA laws work to ensure employees seeking help with alcohol problems can receive the needed attention and services provided through an employer’s EAP department.
As of yet, these same provisions do not apply for employees who struggle with drug addiction problems, though certain exceptions may apply if a person is no longer using. These exceptions come into play in the case of someone who is a “recovering addict”. If another disabling condition is present, such as alcoholism or certain psychological disorders, an employee can still qualify under ADA protections provided they’re currently engaging in drug use.
FMLA laws make it possible for employees to obtain a leave of absence in cases where a medical condition prevents them from working. The same provisions used for alcohol and drug addictions apply under FMLA laws. This means an employee with an alcohol addiction or a recovering addict can request a leave of absence without jeopardizing their employment status as long as it’s medically necessary.
The type of treatment referral an EAP representative makes will determine whether or not you’ll need to take a leave from work. Fortunately, under FMLA laws employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave within a year’s time. Leaves can be scheduled in intervals or worked into a modified work schedule. These modified schedules come in handy should you have to attend AA or NA meetings during the workday.
Work leaves can also be used in cases where an inpatient stay is necessary to ensure a successful recovery process. As inpatient stays typically last for 30 days or more, the leave provision eliminates any concerns you may have about missing too much work while in treatment. Once you complete inpatient treatment, you’ll likely have to attend therapy sessions at least once or twice a week for the first few months. As outpatient treatment will also require you to attend AA or NA meetings, be sure your EAP rep includes time off for therapy and 12-step meetings throughout the week.
Frequent leaves from work may raise questions among coworkers, but EAP representatives are required by law to keep all information regarding your case confidential. In effect, addiction rehab treatment is treated in much the same way as any other type of health information. This confidentiality requirement helps create a safe environment that encourages employees to work through their addiction issues and get the help they need.
Costs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Alcohol and drug addictions cost employers an estimated $364 billion within any given year, according to the National Business Group on Health. These costs equal more than the combined costs of treating cancer and diabetes conditions. Employer-related costs from the effects of addiction include:
- Lost business earnings due to reduced work productivity
- Criminal behaviors, such as stealing supplies or money
- Increased number of medical claim filings
- Increased number of workers’ compensation claim filings
What Constitutes Rehabilitation?
It’s important that you, as an employee, and the EAP representative reach an understanding as to what treatment services are needed to enable you to work at the expected productivity levels your job requires. This means you will need to be as honest and forthcoming as possible with your EAP rep so the necessary arrangements can be made.
For example, if you’re a recovering drug addict but currently struggle with an alcohol addiction, a full recovery may require you to attend an inpatient program that takes both addictions into account, or that you attend both NA and AA meetings throughout the work week. By letting your EAP rep know about past addiction problems, you can prevent a potential drug relapse from occurring as you undergo alcohol rehabilitation treatment.
Once you and your EAP representative agree on a treatment approach, your rep will draw up a treatment plan that spells out the conditions surrounding your rehabilitation process. These conditions will include any work leaves or modified work schedules as well as the types of services you’ll receive while away from work. The treatment plan should also include a confidentially section that states any information discussed during your meetings with an EAP rep remains private.
Part of the treatment planning stage involves determining what conditions must be met in order for you to return to work and to continue to work for the employer. These conditions may be listed on the actual treatment plan or the EAP rep may draw up a separate return-to-work agreement that spells out these conditions in detail.
Depending on the type of treatment program you attend, the terms of a return-to-work agreement may require you to take regularly scheduled alcohol screenings to ensure you maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle. Alcohol screenings may also be scheduled on an impromptu basis as well. As people recovering from alcohol addiction often turn to drugs as a way to replace the effects of alcohol, an EAP rep may also require you to take drug tests in addition to the alcohol screenings to ensure you’re not replacing one addiction for another. Ongoing drug testing and alcohol screenings can last as long as a year or more, depending on the EAP rep’s recommendation.
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