Accommodating Workers with a History of Substance Abuse
A Healthy Work Environment is one that is safe, empowering, and satisfying. Parallel to the World Health Organization definition of health, it is not merely the absence of real and perceived threats to health, but a place of “physical, mental, and social well-being,” supporting optimal health and safety. At New Directions for Women, we deem that it is vital to promote employee wellness. The stability and foundation for success of our organizations and those we serve depend on it.
Drug and alcohol misuse costs our nation upwards of $600 billion annually, by the estimate of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 70% of Americans who are addicted are employed. It is likely that you have employees working alongside you that may have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. In fact, 24% of workers admit drinking during the day at least once in the past year. It is more common than one may think.
Our primary goal is to create employees who are “Fit for Duty”. Employees come to work as vessels, pouring themselves into the people we serve, as well as into each other every single day. They empty themselves of spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual capabilities into their patients and families. To optimize their capacity to do this continually needs to be a priority of the organization, and it is up to us as employers to acknowledge their need for refilling their vessels and to encourage opportunities for them to do so.
With that being said, it is imperative that we create a space where employees feel comfortable to share any professional or personal roadblocks they may have such as substance use. When the Society for Human Resource Management asked us to speak on behalf of ‘Accommodating Workers with a History of Substance Use’, we were eager to share our perspective and what has worked thus far at New Directions for Women.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca J. Flood deems that, “all employers should have a clear, written drug and alcohol policy in place that is supportive and written in a way that employees with addiction problems feel safe to come forward”. In addition, employers need to be aware of the key indicators that someone may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs on the job. Some examples include:
- Frequent tardiness or unexplained absences—with sick days consistently falling after payday or on Mondays.
- Inconsistent job performance.
- A lack of concern over personal appearance and hygiene.
- Bloodshot eyes.
Yet, Flood strongly believes that as long as employees are willing to get help, they should be granted a leave of absence to seek treatment and rehabilitation without being concerned that they will lose their jobs. It is our duty to support our employees and in turn, they will support and touch others’ lives, whether it’s their families, their co-workers, their friends, or their colleagues outside of our organization.
To read more about accommodating workers with a history of substance use, visit our article at SHRM.org.
New Directions for Women (NDFW) is a drug and alcohol rehab and detox treatment provider offering services for women, pregnant women, women with children up to 13 years of age. For nearly 4 decades, we have expanded to become an internationally recognized, comfortable, luxury, attractive 30-bed residential rehab located in Southern California (CA) Costa Mesa, near Newport Beach’s Back Bay and Nature Preserve. State licensed and certified, our award winning facility touts a very high recovery rate. Please contact New Directions for Women if you or someone you know is in need of care in overcoming this disease at 1-800-93-WOMEN. We believe to love her is to help her.