An employee assistance program (EAP) is a free service some workplaces use to connect staff with helpful services for a number of challenges like:
- Substance abuse
- Mental health disorders
- Financial issues
- Legal problems
- Childcare challenges
Employee assistance programs are intended to encourage you to reach out for help. They are completely confidential, and you can’t be penalized for using them.
HOW AN EAP WORKS
EAPs are voluntary and there for you to access when you need help. EAP services may include features like:
- Crisis management
- A limited number of counseling sessions
- Substance abuse and mental health support
- Follow-up services
EAP services are usually free up to a certain point. For example, if you use counseling through EAP, you may get three to five free sessions. You can then determine if you’d like to pay out of pocket for sessions beyond that. EAP substance abuse services can connect you with resources for:
- Medical detox
- Addiction treatment
- Mental health treatment
- Medical procedures
EAPs are not designed to give medical services or take the place of traditional medical and mental health professionals. Instead, they can be a starting point for getting the help you need for challenging life situations.
Pros and Cons of Using EAPs for Substance Abuse
Employers who provide EAPs use them as part of an overall wellness program. They can help you assess the extent of your substance use issue and point you to resources you need to get better.
Benefits of using EAP substance abuse services:
- An EAP can give you a safe space to discuss troublesome substance use. Any conversations are confidential. Your employer will not know that you’re using these services.
- Most EAPs have a hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you can call at any time.
- EAPs can take care of the legwork for you, pointing you to medical care, counseling, and peer support.
- EAPs can make sure that outside services fall within your insurance plan.
Things to consider when using EAP substance abuse services:
- EAPs are not set up to provide intensive treatment for substance abuse. They are good starting points, but depending on the severity of alcohol or drug use, you may need a structured treatment program to get better.
- If your employer refers you to an EAP because of substance use on the job, they may receive updates on your progress, so everything may not be completely confidential. This may inhibit you from being completely honest about your situation so that you receive the help you need. The only way your EAP can disclose information to your employer is if you’ve provided written consent that they can do so or if they suspect you are a threat to yourself or others.
- If you present a threat to another employee or person, like you threaten to hurt someone at work, the EAP will likely be required to notify your employer or even the police.
Other types of restrictions or rules vary from program to program. For the most part, EAPS for substance abuse are confidential, voluntary, and designed to help you.
Alternatives to EAPs
EAPs are great programs to help you get needed resources for short-term challenges or refer you to longer-term solutions. Other avenues of help for workplaces or individuals include:
- Wellness/health programs – Focuses on preventing and identifying health concerns to mitigate long-term risks for workers. These programs may include education, promotion, and voluntary group activities.
- Disease management programs – Employees are educated on managing and preventing common chronic diseases. This may include monitoring, education, and connecting with healthcare providers.
- Substance abuse treatment programs – If you’re using drugs and alcohol despite negative effects at work and in your life, an addiction treatment program can help you get back on track. Workplace-sponsored programs are a good start, but in some cases inpatient or outpatient treatment will be needed to remain sober.
Substance Abuse and Employee Assistance Program FAQs
You may still have questions about EAPs and workplace rules around substance abuse. Here are some frequently asked questions.
How Common Are EAPS?
According to the International Employees Assistance Professionals Programs:
- Over 97% of U.S. companies with more than 5,000 employees have an EAP.
- About 80% of companies with 1,001 to 5,000 employees have an EAP.
- About 75% of companies with 251 to 1,000 employees have an EAP.
- Many smaller companies have some form of an EAP.
Who Can Use an EAP?
You are not required to be a member of your employer’s insurance program to participate in their EAP; however, you need to be employed by the company or an immediate family member of an employee to qualify for help.
Can I Get Fired if I Have to Leave Work for Addiction Treatment?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects you if you need to leave work for medical reasons. It mandates that employees get up to 12 weeks of unpaid, protective, leave per year if they meet certain requirements. FMLA also requires that you don’t lose your insurance during this time.
FMLA applies to all companies with 50 or more employees. You can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for:
- The birth and care of a newborn child.
- Placement of a child with you for foster care or adoption.
- Care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
- Medical leave if unable to work because of a serious health condition.
Medical leave for the treatment of a substance use disorder would meet the requirement for medical leave for a serious health condition under FMLA. However, you must also meet certain requirements before FMLA applies to you:
- You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.
- You must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
- You must work in a company where there are 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of one another.
Will I Still Get Paid if I Leave Work for Addiction Treatment?
FMLA leave is unpaid. Depending on where you work or if you’re in a union, your employer may be required to pay you during substance abuse treatment.
Can I Qualify for Disability Payments for Substance Abuse?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents you from being discriminated against by an employer due to a disability. What qualifies as a disability is defined under the law, and people who struggle with alcoholism are considered to have a disability. The Social Security Administration no longer has a disability status for people with substance use disorders, and in most cases, you will not get disability payments for addiction. In rare cases, you can get disability status for some impairments that your substance abuse caused.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Substance Abuse?
If you’re actively using drugs, you are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your performance on the job has declined because of your substance abuse, your employer can fire you if they can prove that your performance was poor and/or your substance use put yourself or others in danger on the job. If you choose to enter an addiction treatment program before any disciplinary action is taken, it’s unlikely that your employer will fire you. These are all technical legal issues that can only be answered by licensed attorneys who understand these rules and limitations. If you have any questions or concerns, contact an attorney.
Struggling With Substance Abuse?
Footprints to Recovery can help. We offer evidence-based treatment that helps you address the underlying reasons why you’re abusing drugs and alcohol. We’ll help you learn healthy coping skills to replace destructive behaviors. We offer a full continuum of care from medical detox to aftercare. Our residential programs provide intensive treatment and give you space and distance from triggers. Our outpatient programs allow you to continue working while getting treatment. Call us today to learn how we can help.