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Rehabilitation back into the workplace

Supporting your colleague/employee through their alcohol or drug problem doesn’t end when they enter a rehab clinic. One of the most critical phases is the transition back into the working environment and the support offered to them by their managers.

Dr Mike McCann, Occupational Health Physician and board member of Castle Craig rehab clinic, describes this as: “The one point which I feel is often left out”.

It is essential that employers understand that alcohol and drug addiction are ‘relapsing’ conditions; this means that a proportion of those who undergo rehab successfully will relapse back into their use of alcohol or drugs. However, relapse can and does happen, and the individual must know that they can approach management safely and confidently should relapse occur. 

Essential factors to consider:

  • Is the manager and company doctor aware that the person has been through treatment successfully?
  • Has the company doctor collected a report from the therapist responsible for treating the person in respect of the success of the treatment?
  • Have adjustments been made to the workplace environment to ensure that it is safe for the employee and that enough management supervision and support is in place? Through monitoring the rehabilitation of the employee back into the workplace, management can make an informed decision as to when the person can return to their full role in the company. 
  • Does the rehab clinic you send your employee to address relapse triggers and teach the person how to cope with these?
  • Do they offer guidance to family members and employers in addressing this issue?

Two golden rules for relapsing employees

  • They must not come to work if they have been drinking or taking drugs. Otherwise, it becomes a disciplinary issue.
  • They must report the problem to the company doctor/occupational health professional/therapist. This facilitates open dialogue and enables them to use the relapse as a tool for further therapy.

Last Updated on June 15, 2022 by Alison