When we think of drug addicts, we often associate them with individuals who have hit rock bottom, have no employment, and whose lives have spiraled out of control. While this is true for some, research shows that over 70% of people who are addicted to controlled substances actually maintain regular employment. This raises the question of whether or not employers should help fund addiction treatment, and there are no easy answers, as there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so.
Addiction Costs Employers Money
An employee who is addicted to controlled substances will display problems with both performance and attendance. There is also an increased risk of accidents in the workplace. These are factors that when manifested by an employee can ultimately cost a company a tremendous amount of money. Additionally, because many work environments today are collaborative, a single employee who is addicted to controlled substances may negatively influence everyone around them.
The Benefits of Assisting Employees
An employee that receives the needed treatment can provide great benefits to their company. Tardiness drops, as does absenteeism, while productivity can increase by as much as 76 percent. An employer who is willing to help their employee overcome their addiction also shows that they care, and can inspire that individual as well as the other employees.
The Challenges of Assisting Employees
Many employers aren’t thrilled with the idea of funding addiction treatment for their workers, and this is perfectly understandable. Financially speaking, it is much easier for many employers to simply fire workers who suffer from substance abuse and allow it to affect their performance. This is certainly a compelling argument. The employee’s decision to abuse substances is a personal choice, and many employers don’t feel that they should be obligated to fund their treatment. Many employers also implement drug testing policies on potential employees to weed out those that use drugs.
While firing an employee whose performance is negatively impacted by substance abuse is simple, employers must consider the costs to replace them. Hiring new employees can be expensive, especially for jobs which are specialized. Before an employer rejects the idea of funding drug treatment for their employees, they should look at the costs of doing so versus firing and replace them. Whichever option is most cost effective is the one that should be implemented, as the first priority of any business is to maintain its smooth operations.
Small versus Large Businesses
Many small businesses, such as those in the hospitality or food preparation industry, may be better off replacing employees that suffer from drug addiction as opposed to funding their treatment. The reason for this is because these businesses are often too small to afford the costs which are needed to fund treatment, and workers are easy to replace since the skills and education needed for the job are not extensive. In contrast, large businesses which employ workers who are specialized and difficult to replace may want to consider addiction treatment as an alternative to firing and replacing their worker.
Does your business have an employee assistance program for drug abuse? Are you for or against helping to fund addiction treatment for employees? Do share with us!