How to Protect Family Business from Addiction

By March 12, 2018Addiction

When the word “addict” is mentioned  you may think of a ragged and unwashed person lolling on a street corner, but think again. Addiction can happen in the best families and the strongest family businesses. That is why it is important for every family firm’s  employment policy to address addiction.

Addiction is a problem for many businesses. According to a 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health  nearly 1 in 10 full-time workers  abused alcohol or illicit drugs within the past year. Since most employees work at family firms, these findings apply equally to family businesses.

Addiction isn’t just about alcohol or illicit drugs. People can be addicted to prescription drugs, gambling, shopping, sex and other substances and activities. Whatever the nature of the addiction or the position of the addict within the company, having an addict at work typically reduces productivity and increases accidents. Even if the addiction is only indulged off the job, addiction among family members hurts communication and trust.

Families faced with addiction typically either ignore it or enable it. In either case, the presence of an addict can make it difficult or impossible to effectively manage the business. In the worst case, the addict is a potential successor, and that can threaten the firm’s very survival.

Crafting an Addiction Policy

Treatment is generally successful in helping addicts recover and refrain from their substance or activity of choice. Family support and encouragement is frequently named by former addicts as a major factor in getting them to seek and complete treatment, and continue to stay clean. That is why having a formal policy for dealing with addiction is a basic best practice.

To start, leaders should be trained to recognize signs of addiction such as unexplained absences, deteriorating performance and too-frequent problems with co-workers. They should be prepared to encourage and, if necessary, require addicts to get and complete therapy. Non-addicted family members should also receive therapy to deal with the fallout of having an addict in their midst.

To give these common-sense recommendations teeth takes a family member employment policy specifically addressing addiction. This may even be legally required. For instance, any firm that gets at least $100,000 in federal government contracts or grants must have a policy statement addressing controlled substances, per the Drug-Free Workplace Act.

The addiction portion of the family member employment policy will make it clear that as a condition of employment all employees must remain addiction-free. It should also require that anyone found to be addicted has to complete a treatment program in order to stay on the payroll.

You may want to require drug testing in order to make sure a former addict is staying substance-free. Bear in mind, though, that state laws and provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans With Disabilities Act may govern testing and other addiction-related matters. For instance, under the ADA you can’t discriminate against an employee simply because he or she had past addiction issues.

Only about half of addicts seek treatment, according to a 2006 Gallup Poll.  The good news is that by crafting and enforcing a family member employment policy requiring treatment for addicts, family firms can increase the odds of having an addict-free, prosperous, and sustaining family enterprise.

If you are seeking help with either drafting a policy or getting your family member help REGENERATION has trained consultants who can assist you with this difficult task.

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