Sunday, July 21, 2019

What about sick leave banks for alcoholics and addicts?

Most of us know or probably have met someone who has suffered or is battling addiction and have seen those bad consequences. It’s inspiring when we see our friends start trying to get a grip on their hard-to-control problems by seeking out professional help. Hospitalization and rehabilitation though, are mighty expensive and sometimes insurance (if any is had) only covers a portion. This is where public and private employers can consider lending a helping hand.

Some workplaces already utilize sick-leave banks. A normal protocol to qualify for such programs starts with donating a small amount of your own sick time. This accrued, along with others creates a bank of days, which helps pay for colleagues who urgently seek our help. 

However, addiction is a delicate subject, considering anonymity, potential stigmas and such; but even so we have constructive ways to address this. Some employers use boards who vote on whether the sick person is justified or qualified in being granted some of their fellow employees donated sick-time. Many employers have policies that differ from others standards. Also, some people may want to donate and / or exclude donating some of their sick time, for under specific circumstances.

But this is still workable, and some of the solution may lie with utilizing a double-blind mechanism, which informally identifies various aspects of the ill candidate’s situation:  How bad off are they really? How long have they worked here, and what’s an approximate value of their institutional memory? How difficult will it be for us to replace him / her? What about practical statistics for potential relapse in their particular situation? Do they have close family? Etc. But never revealing their actual name, or at least following a standard that attempts to keep the recovering person’s name vague or obscured. (This might be impractical for smaller organizations.)

Undoubtedly, there are some aspects of using sick leave banks that I haven't considered, but I'd be interested in what readers thoughts are about the idea.  

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I forwarded this idea with B, an Anonymous friend, who put it best: “We come together as a community, and as fellow employees in cohesive companies, we pull together often to help with so many issues beyond simpler impactful events, like a household fire. 

“So whether it's a child in a family with an expensive cancer treatment, or perhaps an employee suffering from bulimia, (such as the incredibly talented but struggling singer Karen Carpenter). Alcoholism, as with those also struggling from opioid addiction based on an injury, should fall in the same class of "worthy effort" categories. 

“Education would help eradicate those still harboring mistaken beliefs that those struggling with (the media infused temptation of alcohol) really do not want to get better. They want to work at it, and, once given fair time slots and resources to secure their chances of beating it, (plus not lose them as worthy employees doing a great job despite), how is alcoholism not in the subset of the other life challenges? I'm sure Karen did not want to end her life of music with organ shutdown, she just needed more educated, active intervention; perhaps her life could have been saved and we would have had 20+ more years of her amazing voice.”

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