It can be difficult to know who to tell and what to tell them, when you are starting treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Some people choose to tell only their closest friends and family, because they don’t feel comfortable sharing such intimate information with anyone else. However, while addiction and recovery are deeply personal matters, there might be reasons why a person would also choose to tell their employer what they are experiencing.
It Might Not Be a Secret
It is estimated that 76 percent of people with active substance abuse issues have jobs. Chances are, if your manager has been in a supervisory role for long, they’ve already supervised someone with substance abuse issues in the past. They may also have friends or family who’ve faced similar problems or may have even struggled with addiction themselves.
The point is, your manager may already know the signs of chemical dependency and suspect that you are struggling with addiction. Discussing it with them may not be much more than confirmation of what they already suspected. You may find that they are more compassionate and helpful than expected, or perhaps not. Either way, it’s your story to tell, to whomever you choose, at whatever degree of detail seems appropriate to you.
What to Know Before Disclosing
If you want to return to your present job after rehab and you meet criteria, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may require your company to hold a job for you while you are in treatment. It will also keep your benefits, including health insurance, active while you are gone.
It may be important to determine if you meet the requirements to use FMLA before you decide if you will disclose to your employer why you need to take leave. Key things to remember about FMLA include:
- You are allowed 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period.
- FMLA leave is unpaid, but you may be able to use paid leave too.
- If you have paid leave available, your employer might be allowed to require you to use that before using unpaid FMLA leave.
- The job offered upon your return isn’t required to be the exact job you had before, but it must be considered equivalent.
You’re only eligible for FMLA leave under certain circumstances.
- Only employers with more than 50 employees, for over 20 weeks of the year, are required to offer FMLA leave.
- Only employees who’ve worked for a company for more than one year are covered, and only if they’ve worked more than 1,250 hours in the past year.
- You may need to provide proof of the condition being treated to be eligible.
Perks of the Job
In addition, your company may have policies related to leave and employees who are going into treatment, so it is a good idea to look at your employee handbook to determine what rules apply before you talk to your supervisor. You may be required to disclose your addiction and treatment in order for the company to accommodate your needs, but you may also qualify for additional supports through your company.
Some employers offer counseling or make a referral for a physician or treatment center, possibly at their own expense. In this case, it may be beneficial to include your employer as part of your support system.
How to Disclose Your Addiction to an Employer
If you do decide to inform your employer about your decision to enter treatment, we recommend:
- Scheduling a specific time to speak to your employer one-on-one. This isn’t something to discuss via email.
- Asking your employer for 30 minutes in private.
- Considering an offsite location if you have privacy concerns.
- Sharing only what you choose. You do not have to tell your employer all of the details. He or she has no legal right to this information. Being honest and open generally allows your employer to understand more what you are experiencing, though.
- Stating why you are entering rehab and how it will make you a better employee.
- Avoiding admitting to any fault while at work.Reinforcing with your employer that your confidentiality, as a person with addiction and entering recovery, is protected by law.
- When possible, including a human resource manager and/or union representative in the conversation.
A Fresh Start
Some people decide that they will find a different job following treatment. When it is time to start a new job, it is optional if a person wishes to disclose their history of substance abuse and treatment. However, you are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act as long as you are sober and have been or are being treated.
Valley Recovery Center Can Help
Whether you’re returning to your current job or seeking new employment following discharge from treatment, Valley Recovery Center can support you in finding ways to balance your work life with your recovery needs.