Recovery Friendly Employers

Community-wide challenges need community-wide solutions. That includes employers.

Why Be a Recovery-Friendly Employer?

Another question to consider is, “Why not be a recovery-friendly employer?”

Estimates suggest over 75% of adults with substance use disorder are in the workforce, and 3 out of 4 employers say their workplace has been impacted by opioid use. Of course, substance use disorder at the workplace impacts workplace culture and performance, often leading to increased risk of injuries, higher absenteeism and turnover, and a decrease in morale.

Many employers may choose to respond to these challenges by turning a blind eye. However, since so many employers are still struggling with these challenges and roughly only 20% of people with substance use disorder are receiving adequate treatment, perhaps it’s time to consider a more nuanced approach.

Employers can play a special role in highlighting recovery and encouraging those struggling to seek help. This can both increase the likelihood that people get treatment sooner and create a safer, more effective work environment.

What Exactly Does a Recovery-Friendly Employer Look Like?

There is no “one size fits all” approach to recovery-friendly employment. It varies between industries, regions, workplace cultures, and the employer ultimately decides what is right for them.

With that said, below are the three steps required to become listed on our website as a Recovery Friendly Employer.

  1. Submit an interest form to the Northeastern Workforce Development Board
  2. Attend a brief workshop to learn more about recovery and how it intersects with the workplace.
  3. Notify your entire workforce that your organization is becoming a Recovery Friendly Employer and detailing what that means for them.
    • Letter templates available

After completing those steps, you will receive a certificate from the Northeastern Workforce Development Board that recognizes your new status. Additionally, your company will be listed on our website as a recovery-friendly employer, and your company logo will be displayed on the board’s website.

But recovery-friendly employment doesn’t have to stop there.

Throughout the three-step process as well as afterward, the NWDB staff is always available to provide further policy guidance, situational advice, and connections to external resources. We are also open to collaborating on creating tailored workshops for management and/or employees.

More specifically, an employer with a recovery-friendly mindset could consider the following:

  • Culture
    • Openly talk about it
    • Recognize the character-building strength people in recovery have developed through their experience.
    • Understand employees’ current attitudes and beliefs around SUD and recovery.
    • Host a workshop for employees, which the NWDB can help facilitate
    • Pay attention to potentially stigmatizing language
    • And more
  • Policy
    • Modify hiring practices to prevent premature biases against those with employment gaps or arrests that may stem from substance use.
      • One example of this is not inquiring about a criminal record until after seriously considering a candidate for their other merits (i.e., at least after interviewing)
    • Consider developing a new or modifying an existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to expressly support recovery practices
    • Protect employee confidentiality
    • Ensure anti-drug use policies include useful referrals to resources
    • Standardize and promote return-to-work plans
    • And more

So What’s Next?

Contact Joanna Russell at to learn more and discuss options, including setting up a step-by-step timeline that fits your needs.

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