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The Road to Recovery

As a manager it is incredibly difficult to watch a colleague deal with addiction. However, there is light at the end of tunnel when it comes to their recovery. Returning to work is a critical part of healing for many employees in recovery. Being back in the workplace offers a structured routine, socialization, stimulation of the mind, and positive interaction in a controlled environment for the employee in recovery. For an employer the question is: What can we do as a company to help reinforce this structure and positive interaction for the benefit of the employee and the company?

First things first, a return-to-work agreement must be established to protect both parties–the employer and employee. This document should outline the employer’s expectations, and should be established before the employee returns to work. This agreement is an accountability tool that states if the employee doesn’t comply or fails to meet the expectations then these are grounds for termination. The agreement will, at the very least, state the workplace is a drug-free setting and all employees must uphold this standard.

Secondly, discretion is fundamental. Neither the employee nor the employer owe anyone in the office an explanation as to why the employee in recovery was absent or need to explain past behaviors. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from being fired for poor job performance due to substance abuse, as long as the employee has chosen to enter treatment. This is a tough situation, and employees in recovery must be treated with respect. Some employees in recovery choose to be an inspiration to others and are transparent about their situation, while others are not.

As a company, there may be occasions when colleagues inadvertently ask questions that may make the employee in recovery feel awkward. As a manager, your job is to support the employee in recovery and focus the attention towards their job at hand and their level of professionalism.

As a manager to an employee in recovery, it is not your job to be a therapist or sponsor and treading lightly is always the best route to take. An employee’s recovery is confidential, however some employees in recovery prefer to be transparent with their colleagues. In order to streamline this, it may be ideal to have fellow employees speak with an addiction therapist who can guide the staff on how best to support their colleague in recovery.

If you know someone dealing with addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration for more information on how to help.

Employee drug abuse threatens the safety and regulatory compliance of businesses across all industries. In order to safeguard your business, it’s essential to implement a legally defensible drug-free workplace policy that includes random drug testing, post-accident testing, and more. KRESS is a trusted expert that assists businesses large and small by providing and implementing drug-free workplace plans customized to their unique industry and workforce. Contact us today for help reducing the positive drug-test rate at your workplace today!

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