Dealing with Employee Addictions

By hrlineup | 24.04.2020

A keen worker called Steve is going through a rough patch. Once a stellar employee, his performance and ability to complete his tasks has been on a decline. With a proven performance record, there is something that has gone wrong. With a little investigation, the employer discovers that Steve is addicted to a substance. The employer has a responsibility to get work done, though also sees there is benefit in getting Steve help for substance abuse. What is the best way to deal with the situation?

Step 1: Have a Structure or Substance Abuse Policy.

To begin, a structure needs to be in place that outlines what the company considers to be substance abuse, particularly if it has an impact in the workplace. This can help protect the company in case the addicted individual gets injured while at work. The next thing that the employer can ensure is that health insurance includes insurance coverage for drug abuse. This can assist an employee to deal with the substance abuse challenge and return to work in full health.

Step 2: Speak with the Employee to Confirm the Addiction

With these two structures in place, the sensitive part of dealing with employee addictions is next. This is approaching the employee to determine whether they are addicted. The best way to do this is through a private and empathetic conversation that investigates their well-being. Through this interaction, one may find that the employee may not be ready to share this information.

Step 3: Present some Treatment / Assistance Options

Following this communication, medical help or rehabilitation may be recommended through employer sponsored insurance coverage. There are some instances where medical insurance coverage does not include substance abuse. If this is the case, the employer can try and seek substance abuse prevention agencies and refer the employee to them to get some help.

Step 4: Keep a Record of Issues

For protection of the company, an employer should be prudent and clearly document any instances where the behaviour of the employee has affected their performance. These could include punctuality, safety challenges, decreased performance or lack of attendance. With these instances documented, the employer should follow up with paperwork in the form of warnings where necessary. Doing this is following typical employment procedures so that if termination is necessary, the employer’s legal bases are covered.

When it comes to employee addictions, prevention is much better than cure. Employing and managing people with addictions can cost the company in different ways and make it challenging to terminate such an employee. Depending on the state, employees with substance abuse issues may be classified as being disabled, and it is often not legal to terminate a person because of a disability.

Substance use and substance abuse should be differentiated. This is because substance use benefits may far outweigh substance abuse challenges. Substance use includes taking of medication to treat an ailment that may result in impairment such as drowsiness or lack of coordination. In this case, it would be advised for the employee to remain away from work until the course of medication is completed. With substance abuse however, a different approach may be needed. Options include medical leave or rehabilitation. In the worst-case scenarios, termination may be the only possible option.