Working After Rehab: How to Help an Employee

Whether you’re the CEO of a company or just a regular employee, watching a colleague suffer through addiction can be particularly difficult to witness. While employers can fire an employee whose work is suffering due to the employee’s alcohol or drug issues, many want to help by means of a substance abuse treatment program.

This can be a very helpful process for the employee who wishes to recover from their addiction and refocus on their career but it’s also important to know that rehab is just the first step. What happens when the employee comes back?

A stable job and income are very important for an individual recovering from an addiction. It’s not just the financial stability that they need but the structured routine and opportunity to socialize and make connections is crucial to their recovery process. Being at work helps stimulate the brain and helps recovering individuals create new ways of thinking, which can greatly support the recovery process. But it’s not all fun and games, recovering from an addiction is hard work and returning to a job can expose recovering individuals to co-workers gossip and daily stressors that can contribute to relapse.

There are many ways employers can help an employee who has been in rehab to ease their back into work. First of all, it’s important to understand that they don’t owe anyone any explanations as to what happened while they were gone. Confidentiality plays a huge factor and only the employer who is aware of the situation should engage in direct conversations with the recovering employee. It’s also important to be aware of the chatter around the watercooler as a negative environment will impact everyone’s performance and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Another helpful way to help a recovering employee is by establishing a “return-to-work agreement”. According to, “A “return-to-work agreement” (RTWA) is a written document that outlines an employer’s expectation for a returning employee. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends an RTWA be in place before an employee returns to the workplace. This agreement will outline expectations – including complying with a drug-free workplace – and acknowledge that if the employee fails to meet these standards, the failure to do so may be grounds for termination.” An agreement like this can help both the employer and employee understand what the returning to work after rehab will look like and provides a base to build on, so that the further along an employee gets on their journey to recovery more changes can be added to the agreement.

Regardless of how one goes about it, helping an employee or colleague ease back into work after rehab is not an easy process. An employer is not expected to be the employee’s therapist or best friend and if need be there are addiction specialists that can help employers better understand the situation but it’s also important to remember that anyone of us could end up in a situation like this and supporting one another could make all the difference.

If you are trying to help someone get treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction, including treatment for prescription drug addiction to painkiller opioids, stimulants or depressants call Florida Center for Recovery at 800-851-3291. We provide specialized private addiction treatment programs with an all-inclusive comprehensive inpatient detox. Both alcohol rehab program and drug rehab program offer individual and small group therapy, family recovery therapy and an array of supportive therapeutic services such as trauma therapy (Rapid Resolution Therapy), biofeedback therapy, meditation, 12 Steps, non 12 Step (SMART RECOVERY) and educational and motivational lectures. 

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