This is why it’s so important for people in recovery to find a job that is both fulfilling and supportive of their recovery process.
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Can I Get Sacked for Going to Rehab?
Addiction can be extremely harmful and only tends to get worse and worse if ignored or left untreated. It can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health; alcohol alone is a causal factor in a host of illnesses and diseases including multiple cancers and heart disease.1 Illegal and prescription drugs can also have a serious impact on your health and substance misuse of all kinds can damage families and wreck relationships – including those at work.
If you are considering going to rehab, that is already a huge and positive step in the right direction. It means you have faced up to the fact that you have a problem and are ready to seek professional help. But could going to rehab jeopardise your position at work and even lead to you being sacked?
Can I Be Sacked for Going to Rehab in the UK?
In general terms, you should not be sacked for seeking to make a recovery from addiction or other substance misuse issues by going to rehab. Drug and alcohol addictions are recognised medical issues, but it is important to get a diagnosis. That way you may qualify for sick pay and leave to undergo treatment at a rehab centre. It also means you have the same right to confidentiality and support when raising these issues as you would with any other illness or condition.
Many employers have formal policies in place regarding drugs and alcohol, but many others do not and the law is not always clear cut in these areas. Employers may be within their rights to dismiss you if your addiction negatively affects your work, for example, and substance misuse issues are often bad enough to have such a negative impact way before an individual considers going to rehab.
Can I Get Sacked for Drinking or Taking Drugs?
It may certainly be the case that your employer may dismiss you if they can show that drugs or alcohol have had a detrimental impact on your ability to do your job. According to public service union Unison, the employer must still have a good reason to justify dismissal, related to your conduct or capability.
You may be sacked, for example, if your conduct is so bad that it breaks one or more of the terms of your employment – such as missing work continuously, showing poor discipline, theft or dishonesty. In some cases, evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in itself may break the terms of your employment. The union notes that the employer should follow a fair disciplinary procedure before dismissing you for misconduct. Under this procedure they may also consider help and other interventions such as counselling.2
Workplace Policies and Legal Issues
Registered charity the CIPD, which serves as a professional body for HR and people development, recommends that employers develop a culture, policies and processes that allow for early detection, intervention and support with regards to drug and alcohol misuse. They add that employers should “strive to consider how they can support an employee, regardless of whether disciplinary action is also being taken”.3 Many employers are keen to develop a supportive workplace with consistent processes that look to assist staff with health and wellbeing issues. This does not even have to be for altruistic reasons; it can be cheaper to support an employee through their issues than to attempt to dismiss them and replace them with a new employee from scratch.
They are not obliged to put such policies in place though and the CIPD notes that most legislation in this area relates to the use of drugs at work. Case law (based on previous decisions) is often relied upon for legal guidance regarding alcohol in eth workplace and other related matters.
Employers must, however, follow all relevant legislation, including:
Employers must also follow relevant regulations including:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – which states that an employer has a duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, “the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees”.
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – which places a duty for the employer to assess the risks to the health and safety of employees. An employer can even be prosecuted if they knowingly allow an employee to continue working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and their behaviour places the employee themselves or others at risk.4
Can I Work and Still Go to Rehab?
Residential rehab means that you stay at the rehab centre while undergoing a programme of treatment. This means that you cannot attend work while undergoing this type of rehab. Your employer may provide paid or unpaid time off to attend rehab, however, either because they have supportive drug and alcohol policies in place or for the other reasons outlined above.
Another option is to undergo an outpatient treatment programme of the sort typically provided via the NHS. This may allow you to continue to work but you may still have to take regular time off to attend treatment sessions and, because the sessions are more spread out, the whole programme may take a lot longer than a compact and focused stay at rehab.
There are a number of other reasons why outpatient programmes may not be suitable, especially for people with more severe addictions. You will still be surrounded by the same people, places, triggers and temptations associated with your substance misuse. You may also have to go through detox and manage your recovery with minimal supervision compared to residential rehab, where you will have complete support when you need it and access to a tailored and evidence-led treatment programme.
Ultimately, whatever issues you might have at work, recovery from an addiction should be your top priority. Leaving an addiction untreated could have untold costs on your physical and mental health, your family and relationships, and could end up costing your job anyway if it starts to impact your work. A supportive employer can make the journey a lot easier of course but you need to put your recovery first, whatever situation you are in.
Contact us today for advice in complete confidentiality if you are struggling with any of these issues and find out how we may be able to help.