How To Go To Rehab And Keep Your Job


When you start rehab, there are many practical concerns to contend with. Chief among them is the question of work. You might worry about what to tell your boss about needing time off, or how your recovery will impact your career. Maybe you also fear being judged by your colleagues if they find out about your addiction. Many people postpone getting help because they worry about the stigma around substance abuse. 

These are all valid concerns, but your work should never be the reason you don’t seek help. You can go to rehab without losing your job – and many people do. Legal protections exist to make sure you can pursue recovery without being fired. Plus, many flexible outpatient recovery options can be combined with a full-time job. 

Nothing should stand in the way of your health and happiness. With that in mind, this guide will teach you all about the legal protections you have, when and how to discuss your treatment with your employer and other tips on how to juggle a successful recovery with a successful career. 

Common Concerns About Rehab and Work 

It is understandable if you are worried about rehab’s impact on your professional life. After all, bills and groceries won’t wait for you to get better. Plus, there is an ongoing stigma towards people with addiction, and your internalised shame might make you reluctant to tell your boss or colleagues about your situation. 

However, remember that you have every right to put your health ahead of your work. Plus, there are plenty of ways to combine work and rehab, whether you opt for flexible outpatient programs, take medical leave, or discuss a return plan with your boss. Legal protections are in place to make sure this is possible. 

As society starts to recognise addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing or a weakness, it is also becoming easier to have open discussions about your situation and your requirements. This can come as an immense relief if you have been covering up your addiction at work. Hiding your symptoms and struggles is often a heavy and stressful burden – and one that you should not have to carry. 

Understanding UK Laws and Worker Rights

In the UK, employees facing mental health challenges, including addiction, have legal protections in the workplace. It is worth taking the time to understand your rights, as it helps you make informed decisions about your rehab journey. It will also enable you to confidently approach your employer to discuss your requirements. 

Key laws and rights include:

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act is a cornerstone of anti-discrimination legislation in the UK. It protects individuals from discrimination based on disability – including addiction. This ensures that employees with substance abuse issues are entitled to reasonable accommodations and protection from discrimination.

The Data Protection Act 2018

This legislation protects your confidential information, including details about your rehab and recovery. Your employer is legally obligated to handle such information with care and ensure its confidentiality.

Employment Rights Act 1996

This act protects against unfair dismissal. If you disclose your addiction or your plans for rehabilitation to your employer, you are protected from being dismissed based on these grounds alone. Under this act, employees are also entitled to a certain amount of paid and unpaid leave, and employers are generally required to provide reasonable time off for medical appointments and emergencies. As addiction is a diagnosable medical condition, you are eligible for sick pay while in rehab, provided you have a note from your doctor. 

In short, these laws protect you from being fired because of your addiction, allow you to seek time out for rehab, and ensure that your employer keeps your situation confidential. 

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Can I Get Fired for Going to Rehab? 

No, you cannot get fired for going to rehab. The legal framework discussed above prevents this from happening. Even if you want inpatient treatment, you can do so without leaving your job. Once you enter a treatment centre, you are protected under the Equality Act of 2010. This means that your employer cannot terminate your employment solely because you are undergoing addiction treatment.

Attending a treatment centre might require taking time off work to focus on recovery. This absence is protected, and your employer cannot use it as grounds for termination. If you do get fired, you can sue for discrimination. 

How to Talk to Your Employer About Your Recovery 

Now that you are aware of these legal protections, you might be wondering about the best way of letting your employer know about your rehab.  

Open communication can often be the smoothest way of combining work and recovery. It isn’t an easy conversation, but your honesty and transparency will likely breed trust and support from your team. 

Here are some tips to make sure the discussion goes well. 

1. Find the Right Person to Talk To 

When you decide to inform your employer about your addiction and rehabilitation, it can be tricky to identify which person within your organisation is the right person to address. In general, this will depend on the size of your company. 

In small to medium-sized companies, you can approach your immediate supervisor or manager directly. Larger companies will often require you to go through the HR department to work out the arrangements that can be made. 

Ultimately, choose a person that you can trust and who can implement any necessary accommodations during your recovery. 

2. Choose the Right Time and Place

Once you have decided who you want to talk to, schedule a private meeting with them. This allows you to have a confidential and dedicated conversation where both parties are focused on the matter at hand. 

3. Be Honest and Direct

Communicate your decision to go to rehab and the reasons behind it. Assure your employer that you are committed to your recovery and your job. 

4. Provide a Treatment Plan

Before going into your meeting, work out which treatment program you want to pursue. This way, you can tell your employer how long it will last and what your schedule will look like. Most importantly, communicate whether you will need a period away from work for inpatient treatment, for example. 

Knowing this information beforehand makes it easier to ask for specific arrangements while reassuring your employer that the disruption to your productivity will be minimal. 

5. Request Support and Adjustments 

If you need adjustments to your workload during your recovery or anticipate needing some time off during your rehab, make these requests now. Discuss whether some of your responsibilities could be postponed or delegated. 

Take on only what you feel capable of doing. The burden of ensuring your rehab is compatible with your job is not solely on you. Your employer is also legally required to make the necessary adjustments. 

6. Emphasise the Benefits

If your performance has suffered during your addiction, now is an excellent time to discuss it. Finding out the explanation can be helpful and reassuring to your employer and shows that your underlying commitment remains strong. You can also highlight the positive impact that your recovery will have on your well-being and your performance.  

While discussing your addiction and rehabilitation in a professional setting is nerve-wracking, in most cases, it will have a positive outcome, and your employer will appreciate your proactive approach to addressing the situation. 

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Understanding Employee Assistance Programs 

Many companies in the UK offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) as part of their employee benefits. EAPs are designed to provide confidential support and assistance to employees facing personal issues, including addiction. These programs may offer counselling services, referrals to rehabilitation facilities, and other resources to aid recovery.

Before telling your employer about your situation, check whether your company has an EAP. If so, consider reaching out to them for advice about addressing the issue with your employer and to find out about their support services.

What If You Don’t Want to Talk to Your Boss About Your Addiction? 

Not everyone has a positive relationship with their company, and some people may not want to share their situation with their employer. If this is your case, there are several solutions to consider so that you can still get the help you need. 

  • Use your annual leave to cover your absence during the rehabilitation program. Check your company’s policies regarding time-off requests to see how long you can have off in one go. 
  • You can also request a general medical leave without disclosing the specifics of your condition.
  • Depending on the nature of your job and workplace policies, you may be able to request flexible working hours or remote work during your treatment. This way, you can attend sessions without revealing the specific reason.
  • In some cases, you may be eligible for short-term disability benefits, especially if your addiction is affecting your ability to work. Check with your employer’s HR department or your insurance provider for information on available benefits.

Work Should Not Stop You Seeking Help

Going into rehab does not mean sacrificing your career. Many people keep their jobs through treatment and plan the process with their employer. You cannot be fired for going into rehab, as the UK’s legal framework prevents discrimination against people who have a substance use disorder. 

Having an open discussion with your employer is often the simplest way to ensure the necessary flexibility and accommodations are put in place throughout your recovery. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing your addiction to your company, you can use general medical leave to take time off work for your treatment or request flexible working conditions for medical reasons. You are under no obligation to give a detailed reason for this request. 

If you have any questions or concerns about juggling work and rehab, call us at Castle Craig for a free, confidential consultation. 

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