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How Do I Talk to My Employer About Going to Rehab?

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Drug addiction and alcoholism are progressive diseases that must be treated professionally. When you have a job, it can be challenging to determine if you can go to rehab without losing your source of income. Thankfully, there are protections in place that prevent you from being fired for seeking the help you need.

Even knowing that you won’t get fired for going to rehab, you may still be worried about having to speak with your employer about taking time off. Additionally, the stigmas and misconceptions surrounding substance use disorders do not make this easier. Knowing how to talk to your employer about going to rehab is important if you suffer from a substance abuse issue.

Fortunately, there are laws that protect you from losing your job for seeking help and tips that can help you have a productive conversation with your employer about going to treatment.

Can You Lose Your Job for Attending Addiction Treatment?

While many people delay attending addiction treatment out of fear of losing their job, there are laws in place that prevent this from happening. The two primary programs that protect your job in case of a medical emergency like addiction include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a law that protects your employment if you need to seek help for a serious medical condition. Thankfully, this law includes substance use disorders in its list of “serious medical conditions”. Under this protection, you are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in one year without worrying about losing your job due to your absence.

It is important to note that the FMLA only works for certain employees and employers. To qualify for the FMLA you must:[1]

  • Have worked for your current employer for at least a year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours for your company within the last year
  • Work for an employer with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius or for a school or public agency

Next, the Americans With Disabilities Act protects you from past drug use interfering with your right to work. While the ADA does not protect you from losing your job while you are in treatment, it does mandate that you cannot be discriminated against for your history of drug use.[2] To qualify for this protection you must not be using drugs and have completed or currently be enrolled in a rehabilitation program.

How To Talk To Your Employer About Going to Rehab

Oftentimes, we like to separate our personal lives from our work lives. And while addiction is a very personal issue, sometimes it begins to affect our work. When you are no longer able to perform well at work due to your substance abuse, it may be time to attend addiction treatment.

But how can you begin to approach this topic with your boss?

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to ensure that your talk with your employer goes smoothly.

Be Honest

When speaking with your employer about going to rehab, it is important to be honest about your situation and your intentions. This will give your boss realistic expectations about your return. Being honest is also an important aspect of recovery from addiction.

If you decide to lie about your reason for needing time off, you will set yourself up for secrecy and misgivings. The stress and anxiety that comes with keeping up with a lie could potentially lead you to relapse down the line. As a result, it is best to just be as honest as you can about why you need time off and what you plan to do to get better.

Be Prepared

When you talk to your employer, you should already have a concrete plan in place to present to them. This means you will have to do a bit of research and planning before you have that talk with your boss.

In other words, you should be in contact with a treatment center and have a date set for the beginning of your recovery journey before you approach your employer about taking the time off. This shows them that you are dedicated to recovering from addiction and taking the necessary steps to heal.

Look Into Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are work-based intervention programs that can help you resolve personal problems that may be affecting your ability to work. These programs are becoming increasingly popular among companies, as they are effective tools for keeping people productive and healthy. If your company has an EAP, they could help you communicate with your boss about attending drug and alcohol rehab.

Tie Up Any Loose Ends

It is important to try your best to tie up any loose ends before you go to addiction treatment. This could mean bringing your coworkers up to speed on your current projects, letting your clients know you will be unavailable for some time, or completing the tasks you can in advance. Taking these steps can prevent your employer from feeling like you’ve left them in a bind and proves to them that you are still committed to the company.

Express Your Commitment to the Job

When you are taking time off to attend rehab, you must express your commitment to the job. Letting your boss know that you have every intention to return to work once you are recovered can set their mind at ease and prevent them from looking to replace you. You may also mention that attending addiction treatment will increase your ability to perform at work and will show your boss how committed you are to their company.

Start Your Recovery Today

If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse issues, it might be time to consider enrolling in an addiction treatment program. Substance abuse can greatly impact your ability to perform at work, causing financial issues and hardships. Getting the help you need can prevent this from happening and help you learn how to function in your daily life without the need to use substances.

Contact South Carolina Addiction Treatment today for more information on our addiction treatment programs.