Working with your employee to receive treatment for a substance or mental health disorder could save their life, improve work performance, and strengthen the bonds between them, their co-workers, and yourself. However, it all begins with treatment. You might have some reservations wondering over the time of recovery and how you can help within the legal parameters to ensure the best and timeliest treatment possible for your employee. Understand that addiction and disorders are not criminal acts; they are a health concern. Therefore, your company can seek help for this employee – and if the employee can complete treatment, it could create a win-win situation. 


While some employers’ first instincts would be to let the employee with substance abuse or mental health challenges go, the employer could pay more to do so. Not only does the employee have rights, but releasing them over a health concern could incur more costs. They are as follows: Separation cost, vacancy costs, replacement costs, and training costs. 

Separation cost occurs to cover exit interviews, administrative duties, any severance pay, and unemployment compensation. Vacancy cost comes from overtime pay to employees that have to cover the loss of this employee. They could even result in pay in having to hire a temp to cover the terminated individual. Replacement costs are expenditures related to marketing the vacated position, attracting applicants, and conducting interviews. This also includes any medical examinations the position might require. Finally, training costs cover formal and informal training, including; literature, technology, and the time spent on the new hire learning additional tasks. If you are worried about losing money for your employee’s time away for treatment – weigh the costs because you might be spending more to release them. 

Moral Duty

Something that should supersede all assumptions and worry is your moral obligation to put your employees’ health first. Sending your employee for treatment is the right thing to do. Understand that substance abuse is also a disease of the brain and should be treated like any other brain disorder or disease. This means that your employee needs to be given the same accommodation as other health issues. However, some employers do not see it this way and are more willing to let employees with substance abuse go than employees with cancers, heart conditions, and other autoimmune disorders. It comes down to recognizing addiction as a brain disease and taking the necessary actions to get your staff treatment. While you are not obligated to lead with your morals, you should always strive to protect and treat your team members’ health and well-being. 

Recovery Time

Employees who require medical leave for a lengthy time for a complicated surgical procedure will likely require more time off than an employee going for drug or alcohol treatment. However, employees who enroll in residential treatment can remain there between 30 to 90 days and typically return to work anywhere from six to eight weeks. Because you should motivate your employee to attain the best treatment, plan for the latter – unless returning to work benefits their recovery. Always figure out what accommodations you might need to make, including talking to other employees to cover the workload and what cost might be involved. The better prepared you are, the better you can handle the absence and return of the employee. Be sure to encourage your employee to communicate with you about any needs they have once they return. Creating an open communication line can help someone bring up and issues promptly so you can help them transition back into work. 

The Benefits of Treatment 

Getting help for your employee and accommodating them to meet their needs could benefit you and them significantly, not only from a personal standpoint but also from a professional one. When a person addresses and treats mental and addiction disorders and diseases, they start to get in touch and gain more confidence from within. This can help contribute to increased productivity at work. Successful treatment can enforce more accountability, empowerment, direction, and responsiveness to their job and supervisors. 

Additionally, when individuals can successfully treat and manage their addiction and mental disorder, they stand to get more satisfaction from their work, employer, and fellow employees. This is because treatment supports a greater sense of self, helping individuals realize their potential and appreciating and valuing what they have in their lives. Finally, treatment and being a pillar of support as an employer could strengthen your bond with your employee and create loyalty, creating better communication and more accountability for your employee not to risk repeating or relapse. 


While each scenario varies based on the company policy and the individual, you should always assess the situation with concern and understanding before succumbing to misinformation or stigma surrounding those struggling with addiction. You should also be educated in the Americans with Disabilities Act provisions to make sure you are complying with your employee’s legal rights. Ultimately, you should take this as an opportunity to help an employee struggling – especially if they are a hard-working employee. You also never have to go it alone. There are treatment centers such as True Recovery established with their treatment practices and versed in matters that involve employees and employers. We aim to approach the situation to come away with a better understanding of how to treat addiction and mental health disorders. We believe that education is key to the best communication. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.