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Although the right to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is protected under the federal medical protection act, and employees cannot be held accountable for time needed to attend medically necessary treatment, employers are not compelled to contribute to offset treatment costs, nor are they compelled to provide pay during a period of medical leave for substance abuse rehab.

Additionally, a recent survey of employees working within companies that did offer comprehensive financial assistance towards drug and alcohol treatment programs indicates that a significant proportion of these workers would be reluctant to seek employer assistance for the treatment of substance abuse problems, for fear of negative repercussions on the job. These negative consequences ranged from being fired outright, to losing a promotion or the respect of co workers or subordinates.

The benefits of drug treatment for employees

Although the costs of private substance abuse treatment can be high, the costs to companies that do not encourage drug treatment to those in need can be far greater. It is estimated that substance abusing workers miss an astonishing 10 times as many days of work when compared to non abusing workers, they are 350% more likely to be hurt while on the job, 500% more likely to file a claim for workers compensation, and are only two thirds as productive as sober living employees.

Clearly, although the costs of participating in an employee drug treatment program can be high, the costs of allowing drug and alcohol abusing people to retain employment without assistance can be higher.

While employers may choose to terminate an employee whose substance abuse compromises their work performance, often considerable time and expense has been invested in the training of each employee, and as such to eliminate the problem without treatment does not offer a net savings to the company.

On a more altruistic level, drug treatment programs form an integral part of an umbrella of social support packages that make for good employers. Ideally, the workplace offers more than a pay check, and social support from an employer can make the difference between treatment and continuing addiction for many. Substance abusing employees are often friends as well as co workers, and by getting them the treatment they need, company morale as well as productivity is increased.

How can employers do more?

Firstly, clinical studies have indicated that the threat of workplace sanctions including the threat of losing employment prove uniquely motivating to male substance abusers, and the number one indicator of the successful completion of a drug treatment program was employer mandated or recommended treatment. Because employers have a powerful position of influence over their employees, stronger even than family influence when compelling substance abuse treatment, employers should do more to compel treatment for those that would benefit from offered therapeutic benefits packages.

Additionally, employers need to let employees know that any access to employee benefits packages, such as the right to substance abuse treatment, is mandated confidential by law; and that these employees will face no negative on the job repercussions for seeking out the help that they need.

Getting a valued employee the help they need benefits the company as much as the individual, and this is a unique convergence of interests within the issue of benefits payouts. Saving a trained and skilled employee from their substance abusive behaviors saves training dollars and time, increases overall productivity while reducing sick days and workers compensation payments, and makes the employer a more valued entity in the lives of employees.

With private insurance packages rarely covering all of the costs of a residential rehab stay, employers can influence great behavioral change by enacting programs that fund intensive and effective treatments. Making sure that employees do not fear to access these work programs benefits the employer as much as the employee.

Getting employees the drug treatment help they need is a good thing…for everyone.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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