Best Practices in HR

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Michael Haberman
  October 15, 2018

How to Help an Employee Suffering from Addiction

Addiction can harm both individuals and the companies they work for.

Today’s guest post is written by Trevor McDonald, who has been through the recovery process from addiction, thus bringing practical experience to this post.

Fifty-two percent of about 18.9 million people dealing with substance abuse issues were employed in 2011, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health. With these odds, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter an employee with a substance abuse problem. So, how will you handle it?

Here are a few things you should do:

Find helpful resources

Before you approach an employee, have a plan to help them through this challenging time. Assemble a list of rehab programs, inpatient treatment options, and group therapy sessions. Plan to bring this list to your meeting with the affected person, but you should also make the list available to everyone in the company. It will not be easy, but getting them back on the right track is of the utmost importance because the problem will worsen over time.

Also, find out what your employer-sponsored insurance covers. Oftentimes, the cost of treatment can be a barrier to getting help.

Talk to your lawyer

Addiction is a disease, and as such, we cannot discriminate against an addicted person. This doesn’t mean you have to condone bad behavior, such as showing up late or falling behind on work. But it does mean that you can’t fire someone for wanting to get help. There could be some exceptions, especially if your company has a clear drug policy, but your lawyer can talk you through this. A lawyer is the best person to review your organization’s policies and direct you on how to handle a current case of addiction.

Have a private conversation

Now that you’re armed with the dos and don’ts of handling addiction, it’s time to sit down with the addicted party. At this point, you’ll want to express your concerns and review your company’s policy on drug abuse and addiction. Different states have different laws, which is why you should consult a lawyer, but you may be able to tell the person that his or her job will be on the line if they don’t get help.

Trevor McDonald is a free-lance writer is proud to say “I am in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.” 


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