Can You Get Fired For Going To Rehab?

The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
May 13, 2024
minute read

Substance abuse can have a devastating impact on a person's life, and seeking help through rehabilitation is a crucial step towards recovery. However, a common concern for individuals facing addiction is the fear of losing their job if they decide to enter rehab. 

In this blog, the team at The Hader Clinic will explore the rights and protections afforded to employees in Australia who choose to get help for their addiction, ensuring that they can focus on their recovery without the added stress of potential job loss.

The importance of seeking treatment

Before diving into the legal aspects, it's essential to understand the significance of seeking treatment for addiction. Substance abuse can adversely affect an individual's physical and mental health, personal relationships, and work performance. 

Attending a rehabilitation program can be a life-saving decision that leads to recovery and a healthier, more productive life. Therefore, it is essential that an employee does not hesitate to seek help for fear of losing their job.

Employment protections under Australian law

Australia has robust laws and regulations in place to protect employees who seek treatment for addiction. These protections are primarily governed by the Fair Work Act 2009 and state and territory anti-discrimination laws. Key provisions include:

Unfair dismissal 

The Fair Work Act provides protection against unfair dismissal. Employers cannot terminate an employee's contract solely because they are seeking treatment for addiction. This protection extends to employees of all tenure levels who attend drug and alcohol rehab. 

Discrimination laws 

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on disability, which includes addiction. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees or job applicants who are in rehab, an intensive outpatient program or in recovery.

How to tell your employer you are going to rehab 

In most cases, employees are not obligated to disclose their addiction issues to their employer unless their job duties involve safety-sensitive roles, where their condition could pose a risk to themselves, coworkers, or the public. Even in such cases, employers are expected to work with employees to find reasonable accommodations where possible, rather than terminate their employment. 

However, suppose drug and alcohol addiction treatment through rehab is the best recovery journey for you. In that case, it’s best to communicate this with your employer at a level you feel most comfortable with. Here are some tips about how to effectively communicate with your employer about your decision to go to rehab:

  • Schedule a private meeting: request a private, confidential meeting with your supervisor or HR representative to discuss your situation. This allows for a focused and private conversation.
  • Be prepared: before the meeting, plan what you want to say. Be clear and concise about your need for rehab and your commitment to your recovery.
  • Honesty is key: be honest about your situation, but avoid providing excessive personal details. Emphasise your dedication to overcoming your addiction and improving your overall well-being.
  • Know your rights: familiarise yourself with relevant employment laws and company policies regarding the Medical Leave Act, confidentiality, and anti-discrimination laws to understand your rights and protections.
  • Discuss a plan: outline a plan for how your work responsibilities will be managed during your absence, including a proposed timeline for your return.
  • Maintain professionalism: Keep the conversation professional and avoid being defensive or confrontational. Be open to questions and concerns from your employer.
  • Confidentiality: request that your privacy be respected and that information about your rehab is kept confidential within the company.
  • Follow-up: after rehab, schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your return to work and any necessary adjustments to your role.

Can you work while in rehab?

Whether or not you can work while in rehab depends on various factors, including the type and intensity of the rehabilitation program, your job, and your specific circumstances. In many cases, rehabilitation programs recommend a temporary break from work to fully focus on recovery, as addiction treatment can be a demanding and emotionally challenging process.

Some substance abuse treatment programs may offer outpatient rehab options that allow you to attend therapy sessions while maintaining employment, but this often depends on the flexibility of your job and the understanding of your employer. Additionally, in safety-sensitive positions or roles where your addiction could pose a risk to others, it may be necessary to temporarily suspend your work while in rehab. 

The decision to work during rehab should be made in consultation with your treatment providers, considering your health, the nature of your addiction, and your workplace circumstances. Ultimately, the primary goal of rehab is to provide you with the tools and support needed to achieve lasting recovery, and this may require taking a temporary leave from work to prioritise your well-being.

Seeking legal assistance 

If you feel as though you have been unfairly dismissed, discriminated against, or subjected to any adverse action due to seeking addiction treatment, you have the option to seek legal assistance. Employment lawyers can help navigate these complex situations and protect employees' rights.

Alternatively, a professional rehab centre can play a crucial role in helping individuals find their way back to work after battling addiction. These facilities offer a comprehensive treatment program that addresses the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of addiction. They provide the tools and coping strategies necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety, which can be vital for returning to the workforce. 

Overcome drug or alcohol addiction at The Hader Clinic 

At The Hader Clinic, we're committed to helping individuals overcome drug and alcohol addiction and find their way back to a healthy daily routine. Our treatment facility has everything needed for successful drug or alcohol rehab. 

Our evidence-based treatment programs provide a safe and supportive environment for recovery. With a focus on personalised care and holistic healing, we help clients regain control of their lives, beat their substance use disorder, and get back to work.

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