Seeking help for addiction is hard enough without adding the stress of explaining the situation to your employer. You may already be concerned about how your family and friends are going to take the news, and now you have to decide how to discuss it with your employer.
The right way to handle this discussion begins with being upfront. There are laws in place that protect your rights as an employee, and most employers are understanding when it comes to personal medical problems.
Decide on a Treatment Program
Before you talk to your employer about your addiction, find out which treatment program best suits your needs. Will you be seeking outpatient treatment, or an inpatient program that requires time off from work?
List all the considerations you have for treatment (including insurance requirements), and approach potential treatment centers to get pertinent information on how long you’ll need to be there, what outpatient care looks like and any other factors that might impact your job.
Know your Rights
While you’re researching treatment programs, take the time to educate yourself on your rights. As an employee, there are laws that protect your career while you seek treatment. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA is designed to protect employees with disabilities from discrimination. This act covers people who are suffering from a chemical dependency, such as those addicted to legal substances like alcohol and painkillers.
This act requires that your employer allows you to keep your job with the understanding that you will be able to handle all your responsibilities at the same standard as the other staff. Therefore, if your work isn’t being impacted by your addiction, you cannot be fired.
Family Medical Leave Act
The FMLA requires employers to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. It also entitles you to receive health insurance during this period. Once you’re back from your leave, you will return to your original, or equivalent, position.
This law only works for people who are seeking inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation facility. You won’t be paid during these 12 weeks, but you will be able to keep your job.
Talk to your employers
Addiction is a hard topic to discuss with anyone, let alone your employer. However, if you want to maintain a good relationship with your employer, it is best to have an honest conversation with them before you seek treatment.
Addiction is an emotional topic, but stay focused during your conversation. Cover the basics of what the issue is, how you’re seeking treatment and how this will impact your job (for instance, you may need time off).
Ask your employer if the company has any resources it can offer you at this time. Some companies may be willing to pay for counseling or other services in order to improve your chances of full recovery.
Before you leave the meeting with your employer, discuss any work-related responsibilities you need to continue managing while undergoing rehabilitation. Figure out if you’ll be on leave, whether you will be paid and whether you will be required to delegate tasks to coworkers.
Seeking treatment for addiction is difficult. Don’t make the process any harder by avoiding honesty with your employer. Show commitment to your recovery before you talk with your employer by researching programs that work best for your needs.