Can you collect unemployment benefits while in rehab?

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Can you collect unemployment benefits while in rehab? 

Yes, you can collect unemployment benefits whilst going to rehab. You may be eligible to a Universal Credit allowance, Job seekers allowance, Employment, and support Allowance (ESA) depending on the circumstance. 

What unemployment benefits do drug addicts get?  

The benefits depend on your circumstance. These benefits include: 

  • Income support 
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance 
  • Income-related employment 
  • Support allowance 

Unemployed people can collect unemployment by claiming the "income-based jobseekers’ allowance."

If you have a substance abuse issue that warrants you to enter a treatment facility and forgo working for a while, you can collect the "Employment and support allowance. (ESA)"  

However, you will have to show proof of problematic alcohol or drug use. You will have to prove that substance abuse is making it difficult for you to continue with work. 

Alternatively, if substance abuse or any other medical condition means that going to work would be a severe risk to your health, you can access disability benefits under ESA.

What you need is a strong support letter from your GP, a physiotherapist or mental health team. 

Currently, there's a new style of ESA known as Universal Credit [1].

Any person aged 16 to 64 years can claim a benefit under the Personal Independence Payment [2]. 

You can also use the benefits calculator to check what other unemployment claims you can get [3]. 

A claimant can pursue their compensation by filling out the unemployment benefit form [4]. 

Fear & stereotypes of seeking drug and alcohol treatment 

Many people are hesitant to receive treatment because of family obligations, expenses, and their job.

Although they recognise that they need addiction treatment, the prevalent stereotypes at work and in society keep them from seeking treatment. 

Contrary to popular belief, you can attend rehab without losing your job or damaging your career. Seeking alcohol or drug rehab treatment can boost your career opportunities. 

The federal government recognizes that substance abuse is a mental illness. Any issues related to mental illness, including drugs and alcohol misuse, are covered under the disabilities act. 

In the UK, alcohol addiction is not covered by the disabilities act (or the Equality Act of 2010).

However, if the addiction leads to a physical or mental impairment, the employee is recognized as suffering from a disability regardless of what caused the disability. [5] 

You should not let your fears of stereotypes keep you from restoring your health. You can find a treatment program that's flexible enough to let you continue with work while seeking treatment.

This type of treatment programme is known as an outpatient rehabilitation program. 

If you require an inpatient treatment facility, you can still seek treatment without fear of getting fired or damaging your career. 

Talking to your employer about substance abuse

Maybe there are instances where you've had to miss work because of substance abuse. While at work, the stress from work may make it hard for you to overcome drug use.

In most instances, addiction often leads to other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. If left unchanged, the addiction could lead to other health problems, financial issues and eventually unemployment. 

Employees need to open up to their employer about substance abuse as early as possible. Substance misuse is a prevalent problem at the workplace, and you'd be surprised to find that your employer has a policy on the same.

Be sure to check your employer guideline for any policy or procedure concerning reporting addiction problems. 

You should make time to discuss with your employer about rehab. You should be as transparent as possible and explain that failure to look for recovery will make it difficult for you to be productive at work.

Your employer is required to maintain confidentiality about your intent to get treatment. 

Read more about alcohol use disorder.

Working while in rehab 

It is possible to work while in rehab, but it is not recommended. The reason for this is that addiction is a complex and progressive medical condition.

Most medical professionals and addiction treatment professionals will advise you to take a medical leave so that you can focus on the treatment process. 

Outpatient treatment centres are advisable for those who are qualified as low-risk addicts. You can consult your G.P. to help you make an informed decision on whether outpatient treatment centres are the best option for you.

Some employers have a company policy that requires you to attend support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Alternatively, there are addiction treatment centres that can allow you to work while in rehab. 

Rights, Laws and protections for seeking drug and alcohol abuse treatment 

In the U.K., a concoction of laws and past cases offer protection for those seeking addiction treatment. For validation purposes, it's essential to check with your manager to clarify what protections are available for you. [6] 

That said, it's essential to note that employers must set up a drugs and alcohol policy. The policy should clearly outline the support that the company offers those struggling with alcohol or substance misuse.

Employers are permitted to carry out random drug tests. If the employer suspects that an employee is operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can carry out a random drug test and search for evidence.

If the employee refuses to take the drug test, the employer can implement a disciplinary procedure outlined in the company policy. 

Drug testing after completing rehab is also permitted. An employer may require mandatory drug testing when you come back to work after rehab.

If there's evidence that you're still taking drugs or alcohol, or if there's a positive drug test, the employee can implement whatever disciplinary procedure he deems fit depending on the company policy, and that includes you losing your job. 

Protections provided at work. 

The law protects you from discrimination at the workplace which means that you can't get fired because of going to rehab. Membership to a trade union or non-membership also protects you from discrimination.  

Suppose you feel that you're being discriminated against at work after choosing to go for rehab. In that case, you as a claimant can do the following [7]: 

  • Complain directly to the organization or individual.  
  • Get mediation or alternative dispute resolution  
  • Make a claim in a court or tribunal  

Company owners have a legal duty to protect their worker's health, safety and welfare. Companies are required to support employees with a drug or drinking problem [8].

Employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves, and anyone affected by their work. 


Should you wait for your boss to give consent?  

Let's say you realize that your drinking problem or drug use could harm your co-workers. Should you halt until your boss gives you consent to go for rehab, or can you get yourself into rehabilitation?  

The law is clear that a claimant in violation of company policies may not receive unemployment claims. If your boss can prove that you violated the company's policies, they may fire you.

That's why it's essential to take a medical leave and disclose to your boss that you're seeking help for addiction. 

Unemployment compensation 

A claimant can get unemployment compensation for reasons related to substance misuse. If the results from drug testing at your workplace comes positive, your boss may offer support plus where you can get treatment. 

Drug testing at the workplace by the company's policy must meet relevant standards.

For instance, unemployment insurance cannot be denied to a worker when the only proof that they are in violation of the company's policy is a drug test that fails to follow the drug testing stipulated by the government [8].  

Similarly, unemployment insurance cannot be denied if the claimant refuses to take a drug test because of their privacy, especially when the drug testing policy is inconcise. 

If the company owner is singling out an employee for drug testing and fires them if they test positive, the claimant can qualify for unemployment claims. 

If your boss comes to you first because you're unable to control your drinking or drug use, you can protect yourself from getting fired by being honest about your addiction.

You can take control of the situation by learning about your rights and your company's policies on addiction, including matters about insurance and medical leave. 

Can your employer help you pay for rehab? 

Yes, some employers provide their workers with private health insurance to cover for rehabilitation costs. In most cases, the company covers part of the cost.  

The covid-19 social distancing measures triggered an increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. A lot of people end up self-medicating with substances to fight feelings of isolation and depression. 

Most company owners are aware of the prevalent health problems and substance misuse issues.

Your boss may have a policy in place to help you pay, at least in part, for the treatment cost. For more information, you can reach to your supervisor or H.R. 

How long should the addiction treatment last? 

Typically, rehab lasts for four weeks (about 28 days). It can last for more than eight weeks and can persist for months in cases of chronic addiction.

In such cases, you can make arrangements with your boss and your family to ensure your job and personal obligations are taken care of while you're away. 

For instance, you can set automatic payments or prepay your bills so that you won't be worried about expenses while getting treatment.

You can also ask your family members to cover the cost of utilities and other home expenses while you're away. 

See the full rehabilitation treatment plan for alcohol issues used at Abbeycare clinics.

Visit a treatment centre today 

Drug testing is one way that employers confirm symptoms of drinking or drug use among their employees.

If your boss has proof that you are a risk to yourself and other workers, they may require you to either get treatment after work (outpatient services) or take unpaid leave and go for treatment. 

Failure to get treatment can worsen the situation your performance at work. The earlier you identify the symptoms of addiction, the sooner you can achieve recovery.  

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: November 9, 2023