Network - Spring 2011 - (Page 35)

O Feature Accommodating Addictions in the Workplace By Ron Beach lcoholism and drug dependence are considered mental disabilities under the Human Rights Act, which legislates a duty to accommodate disabilities in the workplace. In my experience, addictions are perhaps some of the more difficult performance concerns to manage. There are many reasons for this, including recognition, effective interventions and resources, but perhaps the biggest challenge related to mental disabilities is stigma. Our personal beliefs about mental disabilities, such as alcohol and drug addictions, may have a significant influence on how we approach those who suffer from them, and how we will navigate through effective work performance strategies. Before discussing accommodation, it is important to look at prevention. There are steps organizations can take to assist in the prevention of alcohol and drug-related problems in the workplace. Prevention of addictions in the workplace starts with defined policies on the use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gambling at work. For example, procedures ensuring that the use of prescription medication does not interfere with an employee’s fitness for work define and clarify for both the employee and employer what is considered impairment on the job. Educating employees on the impact of alcohol, drug and tobacco A use on work performance, the work environment and health and safety helps promote safe and responsible behaviour. Education and training for supervisors will help them identify work performance concerns at an earlier stage. Early identification and intervention will help prevent a problem from escalating. Finally, by offering employees easy, confidential access to assistance if addictions are affecting their work performance, the organization will be supporting effective interventions and taking steps to prevent workplace alcohol and drug concerns. Accommodation The accommodation of an employee with an alcohol, gambling, or drug dependence often involves a concern being raised about work performance. This is an important aspect to remember as supervisors and managers work through the accommodation of this mental disability. While organizations have a duty to accommodate the mental disability, effective work performance management will have a significant role to play in realizing satisfactory accommodation and supporting the employee’s health and safety. In order to achieve a successful outcome, a balance needs to be struck between accommodation and effective work performance management. When performance expectations are compromised, a gradual slipping into professional enabling may occur. When supervisors enable rather than set firm and clear expectations of performance, they are doing employees a disservice by not addressing useful indicators for corrective performance management. These same indicators may also be effective metrics for the rehabilitation plan if identified and processed effectively. Employees may attempt to hide their dependence at work and/or at home, as it can be difficult for an employee to admit to an addiction. As a result, employees may find it easier to avoid and/or actively deny than to face the addiction. Supervisors may also relate to the employee based on their beliefs and attitudes in ways that are not helpful. Supervisors that think negatively of people with dependencies may not work fairly and objectively with the employee. Conversely, others may be uncomfortable with holding an employee accountable for their performance, avoiding the necessary steps of a progressive disciplinary approach in order to evade disruptive or difficult conversations. In these instances, the enabling occurs because of conflict avoidance by the supervisor. I have seen instances where the medical NETWORK O Spring 2011 www.hria.ca O 35 http://www.hria.ca

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Network - Spring 2011

Network - Spring 2011
Contents
HRIA President’s Message
Legal Precedents Clarify Accommodation Procedure
Thank You!
Accommodation: Have a Plan and Stick to It
Disability Management and Duty to Accommodate: The Need for Good Documentation
Accommodating Disability, Not Bad Behaviour
Common “Mistakes” In Accommodation and How to Avoid Them
Case Studies: Managing Workplace Back and Neck Injuries
Accommodating Addictions in the Workplace
Duty to Accommodate – Employee Responsibilities
The Separation of Church and Work
When to Cut Sick Staff Off
The HR Office
Index of Advertisers

Network - Spring 2011

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