Getting Time Off Work for Residential Addiction Treatment

If you were told that you needed heart surgery to save your life and that you needed to take 1-3 months off work in order to heal, chances are exceedingly low that you would say, “I would, but I can’t get the time off work.” After all, your life is at stake; of course you will do whatever you need to get well. Yet, when faced with the prospect of residential treatment to recover from the chronic and too often fatal illness of addiction, many people hesitate. In fact, work-related concerns are some of the most common barriers for people considering addiction treatment. By understanding your rights as an employee, you can alleviate many of those worries and give yourself the time you need to heal.

If you would like more information about how to get time off of work to go to residential addiction treatment or have any questions about the treatment process, we encourage you to contact us.

Will I Lose My Job For Going to Treatment?

Substance addiction is a medical illness and as such affords you protection under two key pieces of federal legislation:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, including time off for treatment. This means that you cannot be fired or reprimanded for going to residential addiction treatment. In fact, your employment is protected as soon as you tell Human Resources that you need treatment; even if your employer needs to hire a replacement for your current job while you are away, you are guaranteed a position within the company at the same rate of pay upon your return.
  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees with certain medical needs, including substance addiction treatment.

It’s important to remember that your job performance may be suffering more than you realize because of your addiction. While the ADA protects you from being fired or disciplined for seeking treatment for your condition and the FMLA protects your job for up to 12 weeks during treatment, these regulations do not protect you from being fired or disciplined for performance or conduct-related reasons. As such, impairments caused by your addiction may compromise your job. Treatment, however, does not, which is why it is imperative that you get the help you need before your addiction interferes with your ability to perform professionally.

How Do I Get Time Off to Go to Treatment?

Once you have decided that you want to go to residential addiction treatment, tell Human Resources (HR) that you will need to take medical leave as soon as possible. Depending on the specific structure of your organization, your leave may be arranged directly through HR or through your employment-based disability insurer, and the organizing party can explain the next steps to you. Typically, a letter from your physician stating that you will need time off for medical purposes will suffice. This letter does not necessarily have to include details that specify addiction as the medical need. In some cases, supporting documentation may be requested, particularly if your leave is being covered by employer-provided disability insurance.

Will I Be Paid During My Leave?

Neither the ADA nor the FMLA mandate paid leave, and many people do experience income loss during their time in addiction treatment. However, depending on your employer-provided benefits, it may be possible to minimize income loss by using sick days, personal days, and vacation days to count toward part of your leave. If you have short-term disability insurance, either privately or through your employer, this can also cover a significant portion of your lost earnings.

Who Has to Know About My Addiction?

The only people at your work who may need to know the exact nature of your medical condition are your HR representatives. You do not have to disclose your addiction to anyone else, including your boss.

Can I Keep Working While In Residential Treatment?

While it is often best to focus solely on your recovery while in residential treatment, there are cases where people have to or want to work in a limited capacity during treatment. If this is the case for you, finding a treatment program that caters to those who need to maintain contact with work and that can accommodate your unique situation may be the best option.

What If …?

It’s natural to have many questions about how treatment will impact your professional life and you may have concerns not addressed here. If you have additional questions about how to take time off of work to attend residential addiction treatment, we invite you to contact us at any time. At Alta Mira, we are always here to offer support and guidance to ensure that you get the help you need to start the journey toward recovery.

taking time off work for rehab infographic link