Alcoholism At Work
Alcoholism treatment or Drug Addiction
What can companies do when an employee, a manager – even an executive or CEO – is found to be addicted to alcohol, cocaine or other drugs? Is there a humane, effective process that can lead addicted employees
into recovery and return them as productive members of the work force? Absolutely! And that’s why the Hazelden Foundation is launching “Making Recovery America’s Business” – a corporate education effort designed to dramatically change the way American businesses view addiction in the workplace. Here are Hazelden’s recommendations:
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#1 – Candidly Assess Your Company’s Beliefs about Alcoholism or Drug Addiction
Among Your Employees.
Does your company believe employees who are addicted
to alcohol or other drugs should be treated the same as
employees battling cancer, diabetes or other diseases? Would
your company support an intervention if an employee
suffered from drug or alcohol addiction? would you fund a stay at an Alcohol Treatment Centre. Because of the
stigma of addiction, dependency and the misbelief that substance abuse is
a personal or moral failing, many companies view addicted
employees as offenders - rather than as people struggling
with a chronic, treatable disease. Decide what steps you can
take to lead an addicted employee toward treatment and
recovery, rather than termination.
#2 - Recognize The Extent of Addiction or Alcoholism in Your Work place.
What is the gap between your company’s desire for a
drug-free workplace and the reality of current employee
performance problems, which could simply mask underlying
addiction to alcohol, cocaine dependency, stimulants, sedatives, prescription
medication or other drugs? Would a confidential HR survey of
your employees reveal far more dependence on alcohol and
other mood-altering drugs than you might expect? Is your
company training its supervisors to identify the behavioral
signs of employees who may be having trouble with alcohol
and other drugs, or moving from abuse to addiction?
#3 - Inform Employees How Your Company Deals with Addiction.
Hazelden urges companies to clearly encourage early
intervention and treatment, rather than waiting for a problem
to escalate and then relying on punishment and termination.
Acknowledge your real-world company’s philosophy toward
addictive diseases and develop the best way to communicate
that to your employees. Explain to employees how your
health insurance/benefits package supports chemical
dependency treatment and recovery. Assure them that they
will not be punished for getting the help they need. State if
your company is willing to supply an interventionist to head
off a crisis with an addicted employee. Mention what type
of leave of absence your company provides to accommodate
a completion of inpatient addiction treatment. Openly
educate employees about chemical dependency treatment
#4 - Create A Company Culture That Supports Alcoholism Treatment
Erase the stigma of alcoholism or addiction in your workplace. Urge
employees to seek help at the earliest possible stage and
create a safe environment that encourages coworkers to
intervene rather than ignore the signs of addiction at work. Provide
support for the work group – supervisor, coworkers,
employees, support staff – who may be dealing with an employee’s addiction, alcoholism, reassuring them they did the right
thing to get involved. Help facilitate intervention. Addicted
employees are often afraid to take advantage of official drug
treatment resources, including employer-paid health insurance,
so consider the value of giving your employees access to an
anonymous, independently-run help line or Employee
Assistance Program (EAP).
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#5 – Balance Discipline with The Hope of Treatment and
Companies should balance two tracks when dealing with
addicted employees. The first is a potential disciplinary
track, which could lead to serious consequences including
termination, and the second is an accommodation and
treatment track, which is often less expensive and less
disruptive to your company. Your company’s overall goal
should be early intervention and treatment of employees
with drug or alcohol addiction.
#6 - Inform Employees How They Can Help Addicted
Most employees care about their coworkers or their family
members who may be showing signs of struggling with
addiction, but have no idea how to help. Explain in your
policy manual how employees can safely intervene if they
believe a coworker has a problem with addiction. What are
their options? Describe some typical scenarios and possible
steps that a concerned coworker could safely take. Many
employees admit that they cover up for addicted managers
to hide their problems.
#7 - Make Confidentiality and Respect The Core of Your
Company’s Approach to Alcoholism Treatment & Addiction in the Workplace.
National surveys show that addicted employees will avoid
treatment, even treatment that’s covered by their health
insurance, if they are worried about confidentiality and the
perceived consequences of coming forward to deal with
their disease. The expectation of confidentiality is vital if
your employees are to step forward and seek help. Create a
process that will encourage employees to step forward to
seek help. Train supervisors to establish and maintain a
workplace culture that ensures a respectful and confidential
environment, in line with the process that has been created.
#8 - Evaluate Your Company’s Efforts to Deal with Addiction.
Are employees accessing your Employee Assistance Program
resources for addiction? (Nationally, barely 5-10 percent of
eligible employees actually access EAP programs that are
available to them.) Evaluate how often your company’s
services are utilized. If not, do employees not understand
the policies? Why aren’t they taking advantage of the treatment
options? Remember that if they do, they can return to
the workplace as sober and productive employees.
#9 - Make It Easy For Employees To Access Support for Their
Sobriety, especially after a stay at a Rehab Drug Alcohol Treatment Center
Identify aftercare programs that provide counseling and
support for the years following treatment for alcoholism or addiction. Let supervisors
know what resources they can tap into for their employees,
including local Alcoholics Anonymous chapters. Provide
comfortable alternatives to alcohol at company functions,
and avoid scheduling office-related business meetings in bars.
#10 - Hire Candidates Who Have Sought Alcoholism Treatment for
Addiction and Are in Recovery.
People in recovery are highly motivated to succeed and
prove themselves, and take tremendous pride in their
achievements at work. Hiring employees who have made
the transition from addiction to recovery sends a clear
message to other employees that your company understands
that recovery is possible. Employees in recovery are living
proof of that every day.
#11 – Request Inclusive Health Insurance Coverage for
Want to become an “Employer of the Year,” where topquality
candidates seek you out as a “Best Place To Work”?
Use your company’s policy toward addiction treatment as a
recruitment and retention tool. Go public about how your
company goes the extra mile for employees and their
families who are struggle with addiction. Show your
commitment by negotiating with your health insurance
company for coverage of behavioral health services that
include adequate treatment for alcohol drug addiction.
#12 – Support Legislation That Guarantees Access to Addiction Treatment.
Join together with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America,
American Society of Addiction Medicine, Physician
Leadership on National Drug Policy, or other groups in
supporting the HEART (Help Expand Access to Recovery
and Treatment) Act now under consideration in Congress.
This legislation would require all health insurers to treat the
illness of drug addiction no differently than they currently
treat other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and
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