Will My Boss Allow Me Time Off to Go to Detox?

Choosing to receive professional addiction treatment is a major step. However, now that you’ve take the initiative to seek help, you may be worried about tying up loose ends, making sure that your outside responsibilities are taken care of, and protecting your career. These are all common and understandable concerns. Many people entering inpatient treatment are worried about how time away will impact their jobs.

If you’re wondering whether your boss will grant you time off to go to detox, you’re in luck. Not only are most employers more than willing to help their team members obtain effective treatment for both fast-developing and full-blown addiction, but they’re also legally required to do so. Passed in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prevents employers from penalizing workers for seeking essential medical care. Under the FMLA, addiction is recognized as a chronic mental health disorder. Also known as either substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD), addiction can be medically diagnosed and treated. It is also a recognized as a covered condition by both private pay health insurance companies and government subsidized health insurance plans.

Using the FMLA to Take Time Off of Work for Detox and Rehab

Detox programs typically take between one and two weeks to complete. The actual withdrawal process can vary greatly from person to person depending upon their:

  • General health
  • Length of addiction
  • Substance of choice
  • Gender
  • Age

Taking one to two weeks off of work to clear your system of an addictive substance shouldn’t be a big deal. However, it’s important to remember that detoxing is merely the first step in the recovery process. To maintain your abstinence over time, you’ll want to go to rehab where you’ll learn new coping techniques, build greater distress tolerance, develop effective stress management skills, and learn more about the underlying causes of your addiction among other things. Rehab programs typically last between one and three months.

Although the FMLA protects people from job termination for seeking addiction treatment, there are still steps that you must take to enjoy these protections. To start, your addiction must be medically diagnosed. You can schedule an appointment with your general physician to talk about the substances that you’ve been abusing and the symptoms you’ve been experiencing when attempting to wean or quit. Next, you’ll have to contact your company’s human resources department to begin filling out your FMLA paperwork. In an ideal world, the “powers that be” would expedite this process. However, it’s generally best to start your FMLA paperwork as soon as possible.

This way, you won’t be waiting for an approval when the start date of your treatment arrives. Despite being legally required to honor the treatment needs of those struggling with addiction, most employers are willing to provide time off for rehab of their own volition. They know that professional treatment will invariably increase the value that their employees have to offer. In fact, there are even many employers who are willing to make modest contributions to their employees’ treatment costs.

Thus, if your rehab costs aren’t fully covered by your health insurance plan, you may be able to get help with your out-of-pocket spending by discussing your financial needs with a human resources representative. Although shame and guilt may make you tempted to avoid having these important discussions, it’s important to remember that your personal health information is still a confidential matter. Details that you share about your circumstances and medical diagnosis with your company’s human resources team won’t be made available to other people in the office.

Notwithstanding all of the protections that the FMLA provides, you could still be reticent to request or take time off of work for detox and rehab. If you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and energy into building your career and are worried about what might happen if you step away from your role for a month or more, you may want to consider some of the available options in outpatient treatment. Outpatient rehab programs offer many of the same services, resources, and therapy types that people have access to when enrolling in inpatient programs. However, outpatient treatment is structured so that patients can continue going to work or school while in treatment.

A basic outpatient program will require you to spend between seven and 12 hours each week on campus. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) require commitments of 30 to 35 hours each week. IOPs offer a level of support that’s similar to the support provided by inpatient rehabs, and yet patients can still go home in the evenings and on the weekends. Outpatient services work best for people with few to no risk factors for relapse. Thus, if you have a co-occurring disorder such as general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder, inpatient treatment is likely the best choice. People who’ve been using highly addictive drugs, have relapsed multiple times before, or who’ve been using drugs or alcohol heavily and for long periods of time should seek inpatient treatment as well.

At the end of the day, choosing a treatment type that gives you the best possible chance at success in recovery should always be your top priority. Learning to effectively manage your addiction over the long term will help you provide the greatest value as an employee. To find out more about the Family Medical Leave Act or to find a detox program near you, call 833-846-5669 today. Our counselors are always standing by.