Addiction costs the U.S. more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care expenses, according to a study by Cigna and the American Society of Addiction Medication.
Similar to any other physical or mental health illness, addiction comes with a price. And for addicts who are active in the workforce, this price is paid (at least partially) by their employer.
For example, according to data by Castlight Health Inc., opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much in medical expenses alone, as non-abusers.
Those suffering from addiction are more likely to use workers comp and be sick, absent, or less productive in general.
In total, Workforce reports that people abusing drugs use three times the amount of sick benefits. These individuals also use five times more workers’ compensation claims. Clearly, addiction takes a toll on both the employer and employee.
Employees struggling with addiction need help. This much is evident. But what isn’t evident is how providing employees with the help they need makes as much business sense as it does personal sense.
Here are the benefits your company can provide to help alleviate addiction in the workplace.
Why provide treatment?
Before we dive into what benefits your business can use to ease the burden of addiction, there is a simple question that needs answering.
Why provide treatment? Why not simply run drug tests and terminate anyone who doesn’t pass?
Well, the easy answer is that drug testing is ineffective. If you test on the hire date, employees will simply stop for a few days beforehand. Testing your employees at random may be more accurate, but could alienate your staff.
Additionally, drug tests can detect substances that are used legally, as prescribed medication. Of course, it’s an employer’s right to determine what their employees can or cannot use while under their employment.
But this testing may lead to your company being forced to terminate high-ranking or high-performing employees. Your company may have a zero tolerance policy, but losing your best employees could lead to a talent void.
Businesses in states where medical marijuana is legal, or where prescription opioids are common, could run into this problem regularly.
Instead of testing your employees and then firing them, provide your staff with treatment. Offering treatment versus termination provides your business with several advantages.
The first being that you won’t have to fire a top employee for a positive drug test. Drug or alcohol abuse is bad for your both your health and productivity.
But, as already mentioned, firing top employees is simply not financially feasible for some employers. Promoting substance abuse treatment could allow your company to eliminate these negatives without firing the offender.
The second advantage is that offering treatment options to your employees creates both internal and external goodwill. Providing treatment opportunities demonstrates to your staff that you care about them, and their well-being.
Employees who feel their employer cares about them are more likely to be satisfied and consequently engaged.
Similarly, those outside your company will think better of your business. Your clients and the public overall are more likely to harbor positive feelings about your firm.
A final advantage of giving your employees treatment is that it is a tremendous recruiting tool. When you work to treat employees and heal them, it goes a long way towards the perception of your organization for recruits too.
Again, as with your employees, you show recruits that you care about their personal well-being.
To be clear, every employer has the right to terminate any employee for abusing a controlled substance. Still, no company is able to detect 100 percent of its employees who are suffering from addiction or substance abuse.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drug test your employees. But, if your company is focused only on how to catch these team members, instead of treating them, there will be a cost to your business.
What benefits should you provide?
The following benefits will help any employees who are struggling with the affliction of addiction in the workplace.
Paid time off, or PTO, is a paid leave plan that combines sick leave and vacation time. So, PTO gives employees a set bank of time off at the beginning of the year.
The difference between PTO and standard, separated, leave is that employees have a greater ability to choose when and why they are going to take their time off.
PTO grants those suffering from addiction, the capacity to take time off if they need to enter a rehabilitation program.
If an employee knows they are more vulnerable or emotional during a certain time, they can take time off without having to give advanced notice to their employer, as they would with vacation time.
With PTO, your employees can take this leave, and not have to worry about the stress of using unpaid leave.
There are two major ways to give your staff more flexibility. The first method is by providing flexible work options. Flexible work options allow your employees to choose when, where, or the number of hours they work.
Like PTO, flexible work options allow your team members to work around any needs they may have, regarding their addiction. The other method to give your employees flexibility is to alter their role as necessary.
Collaborate with your staff to alter an employee’s role, when necessary. If a team member feels their work is affecting their battle with addiction, a change in role may be imperative.
3. Wellness Programs
Wellness programs are vital when addressing employee addiction. Your business can use these programs to address addiction, and issues relating to addiction. For example, use wellness programs to fight the stigma against seeking help for addiction issues.
Through a wellness program, communicate the ways employees can seek help confidentially, and without risking their employment status.
Wellness programs can also be used to encourage an appropriate use of legal substances (i.e., alcohol, prescription drugs). Provide your employees with the factual, adverse effects of the excessive use of these substances.
A wellness program is a terrific system to provide employees the information they need regarding the harmful effects of addiction and substance abuse, and how they can seek treatment.
4. Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are work-based intervention programs designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal issues. These issues can range from marital, to financial, to substance abuse and mental health issues, or addiction.
Organizations usually offer EAPs at no cost to team members. Most employers operate their EAP through a third-party administrator.
Using a third-party administrator is crucial to the success of your EAP because employees have to feel comfortable discussing professional and personal problems.
Your staff needs to be able to talk about these issues with confidence. They cannot fear they are putting their jobs or lives in jeopardy.
If you administer your EAP, it could prevent employees from coming forward and asking for the help they require.
EAPs are a terrific way to point employees struggling with substance abuse or addiction, in the right direction, so they can receive the treatment they need.
5. Health Insurance
Health insurance is critical to helping staff members suffering from addiction. As an employer, it is essential to select a health plan that includes mental health and addiction coverage.
There is an extensive list of services your health plan should provide your staff. These services include: substance abuse screening, outpatient and inpatient treatment, medication, and counseling. Each of these services is essential for dealing with addiction.
To be clear, you cannot force your employees into treatment, but your company can promote treatment and encourage employees to take advantage of these options.
Addiction in the workplace costs U.S. employers over $120 billion in lost productivity alone, every year. It is imperative that you provide your employees with these benefits. Give your employees some reinforcements in the battle with their addiction.
Give your employees some reinforcements in the battle with their addiction.