How Employers Can Address Substance Misuse
The National Safety Council (NSC) found that 1 in 12 workers is dealing with an untreated "substance use disorder" (SUD). Even if employers don't see it, which is more likely with remote and hybrid work arrangements, substance use, misuse and addiction likely remain prevalent among their workforce. Furthermore, the NSC reports that employees with an SUD have double the health care costs as the average employee without one. Beyond health care costs, employee absenteeism and lost productivity climb sharply with substance use.
This article explains employee substance misuse's impact in the workplace and explores ways employers can help prevent substance misuse and support employees in recovery.
Substance misuse is the unhealthy use of alcohol, drugs or other substances that negatively interfere with a person's functioning or well-being. It can negatively affect peoples' physical or emotional well-being, significant relationships, educational achievements, finances and other parts of their lives. Substance misuse also affects productivity, workplace safety and health care costs.
Alcohol and substance misuse or addiction by employees can have serious ramifications for employers. Employees who engage in risky substance use are absent more often, have lower productivity and poor work performance, are more susceptible to injury due to accidents and may have higher health care costs. These costs can represent a significant burden to employers, and the behavior can present the liability of a serious workplace accident due to an employee's impairment at work. As such, employers can address potential substance misuse amongst their employees and implement policies and protocols to deal with such issues.
Employers can play an essential role in decreasing substance misuse's social and financial burden and guiding the development of a healthy and productive workforce. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans are covered under employer-sponsored health insurance, which is required to include coverage for mental health and substance use conditions. As such, employers may also offer employee benefits that address substance misuse.
Employee benefits are available to help address substance misuse and addiction. Employers can support employees with the following strategies:
access to treatment and support recovery from substance misuse, they can help create healthier and more productive employees and communities.
As with all workplace policies and programs, employers should practice discretion and stay compliant when addressing these serious issues. Generally, information about an employee's substance misuse, like all medical information about employees, should be kept confidential.
Substance misuse is a growing problem in the United States, and its widespread impact makes it into workplaces. It's likely to remain prevalent among today's workforce, and the popularity of remote and hybrid working arrangements can make it even more complicated to identify and offer support and resources.
Unfortunately, addiction is stigmatized, discouraging many people with alcohol and drug issues from seeking treatment. However, employers have an opportunity to develop an employee benefits program that is holistic and addresses prevention, screening and treatment options while also taking deliberate steps to protect employees' privacy as they receive treatment.
Contact ThinkTank Insurance Partners for additional resources to address and combat substance misuse and addiction in the workplace.
This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.
Marty has spent most of the last 20 years developing software in the marketing space and creating pathways for software systems to talk to each other with high efficiency. He heads our digital marketing efforts as well as oversees any technology implementations for our clients. As a partner, Marty is also responsible for internal systems in which help our team communicates with each other and our clients.