Many people struggling with addiction want help, but they may be worried about how to seek addiction treatment without losing their job. Luckily, it’s possible to take time off from a job for rehab without being fired or terminated. Here’s how.
Understand the Family Medical Leave Act
Established in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, offers employees the ability to take a leave of absence from their jobs for a variety of medical reasons without the risk of losing their job.
FMLA can be used to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a health condition. Many parents use it after the birth of a baby, for example. It could be used for someone undergoing cancer treatments, or to care for a parent or spouse after surgery, for example. It is also eligible to be used by anyone seeking treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.
The labor law applies to any public agency, as well as private employers, that have 50 or more workers. It allows a person who has worked for the company for at least one year and a minimum of 1,250 hours to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. FMLA protects the individual from losing their job for taking this time off.
Additionally, the law doesn’t allow an employer to retaliate in any way against someone who requests this type of leave. FMLA prevents an employer from demoting or refusing to promote an employee in connection with their FMLA leave for any health condition, including their own treatment for substance use disorder or care for a family member with addiction.
FMLA does not protect a person who misses work due to their drug or alcohol use, however. Additionally, some companies may have a substance abuse policy that may allow them to terminate employment regardless of FMLA. Make sure to understand your company’s policies and how FMLA does and does not protect you before making any decisions. You may want to consult with an attorney.
How to Talk to An Employer About Rehab
If you have made the decision to go to rehab, the next step is to communicate with your employer. Preparing in advance for this conversation, as well as addressing any potential questions, is smart.
Start with an understanding of your employer’s policies. A representative from your company’s Human Resources department is a good place to begin. They should be able to advise you on your company’s policy regarding time off for addiction treatment. Some employers may even have policies specifically geared toward helping employees with substance abuse.
After you have a full understanding of your employer’s policy around leave, the next step is, to be honest with your boss. Explain why you’re seeking help and the benefits this decision can provide in terms of your health and well-being.
Next, acknowledge if your recent work performance has suffered because of your substance use. This is highly likely and can be another reason an employer may be sympathetic to your desire to seek recovery.
Finally, help prepare coworkers for any work that may arise during an absence. Finding someone to cover for your work-related responsibilities while you’re attending addiction treatment is also useful.
It can be hard to share with a supervisor or coworkers about your recovery journey. Not only are you admitting to a problem with drugs or alcohol, but you are also requesting to be away from work and place a greater burden on other employees. That’s why it’s important to approach this conversation as positively as possible.
Most employers will recognize that it takes courage to admit to an addiction and even more courage to seek help. They may have already observed signs at work that was causing them concern or leading them to suspect something was wrong.
Be prepared to sign a Return to Work agreement. This document may lay out expectations an employer may have about your performance upon your return to work from a treatment program, especially if your previous work had been negatively impacted by your substance use.
It can be scary to discuss an addiction, but no one should focus on a fear of judgment. Many people have friends or loved ones who have dealt with addiction and are likely to be sympathetic and supportive.
Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery Centers takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. We’re located in Houston, Texas, and our detox and treatment programs are led by experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals who specialize in personalized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
We’re not attorneys and this is not legal advice. If you are seeking to take time off for addiction treatment, we recommend you speak with a legal advisor first.