Workplaces have a crucial role to play in addiction recovery, according to a March 23 report from Fors Marsh.
With 1 in 11 U.S. employees living with a substance use disorder — and more than 14 million Americans in recovery — workplaces can’t be an afterthought for supporting those in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD).
“Recovery-friendly workplaces are vital to people living with SUD, and employees in recovery are vital to thriving business,” Ben Garthwaite, CEO of Fors Marsh said in a statement.
“The workplace is too often overlooked as an essential source of support,” he said. “Our research lays bare the role business leaders can and must play to close this gap.”
Based on findings from its inaugural workplace recovery survey, Fors Marsh made recommendations for organizational leaders and human resources personnel. In particular, employers can assess whether employees are aware of support programs and whether they feel safe seeking support, as well as identify barriers in the workplace that may interfere with substance use recovery.
The first step is education, according to the report. Fewer than one-third of employees said they know their health benefits cover substance use disorder treatment or recovery support. Supervisors and managers can highlight these benefits through multiple channels.
Next, clear communication is key. Nearly half of employees said they’d be willing to talk to their supervisor or manager if they need help with SUD. Workplace policies can ensure that managers are informed about company benefits and receive training on how to speak to employees about SUD.
Similarly, workplaces can empower employees in recovery — and those with family members in recovery — to hold on-site support meetings before, after or during work. This can discourage discrimination and stigma and normalize SUD recovery.
In addition, employers can hire qualified applicants in recovery by ending policies that serve as barriers to employment and retention. These policy changes can reduce employee turnover by demonstrating the value of all workers, according to the report.
The federal government has urged and supported similar efforts in recent months. In August 2022, the White House released a National Drug Control Strategy, which includes actions to “expand employment opportunities and promote recovery-ready workplace policies.” As part of that, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) administers federal programs that support community organizations working to help people in recovery.
Earlier last year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to remind employers that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects those in treatment and recovery from opioid use disorder.
“Enabling workers in recovery to thrive in jobs with employer support will save lives and reduce suffering, sickness, and absenteeism, and it turns out it's also great for business,” Tom Coderre, SAMHSA’s acting deputy assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse, said in the statement.