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Research suggests that the adoption of recovery-ready workplace policies can result in increased productivity, decreased healthcare costs, reduced turnover and related costs, and reduced exposure to substance-related accidents. These policies can also help employers tap into tight sectors of the labor force to build their organizational capacity. In addition to making good business sense and helping employees, the adoption of recovery-ready workplace policies permits employers to be a force for positive change and a model of community leadership and good corporate citizenship.

Impact of Substance Use on the Workplace

The majority of Americans with substance use disorder (SUD) are employed—predominantly full-time.1 SUD in the workforce is costly to employers, resulting in absenteeism, lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and elevated liability exposure. Workers with SUDs take nearly 50 percent more days of unscheduled leave than other workers and have an average annual turnover rate 44 percent higher than that for the workforce as a whole. By contrast, workers who are in recovery from SUD average nearly 10 percent fewer days of unscheduled leave per year than other workers. And, the turnover rate for employees in recovery is 12 percent lower than the overall average.2 Turnover is extremely costly. Recruiting and training a replacement worker costs approximately 21 percent of the employee’s annual salary and benefits.3, 4 For more information, see this publication on the development of the Substance Use Cost Calculator for US Employers discussed below.

How Much is Substance Use Costing your Organization?

The actual cost of substance use in the workplace depends on a range of factors, productivity losses, associated turnover, and the salaries of affected workers, which vary by geography, industry, and position type. The Employer Substance Use Cost Calculator, developed by NORC at University of Chicago and the National Safety Council provides an easy-to-use tool for estimating the cost of substance use in your organization and the savings that might be garnered by adopting recovery-ready workplace policies. Links to information on the cost calculator’s methodology and to a similar Mental Health Cost Calculator can be found below.

Business Case for Recovery-Ready Workplace Policies

The adoption of recovery-ready workplace policies can help reduce the costs associated with turnover, productivity losses, health service utilization, and injury or accident risk due to substance-related impairment. These costs are discussed in the section above and more detailed information on the costs can be found on the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine site. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that people in recovery “often have a high degree of self-awareness, resilience, compassion, dedication and understanding,” and research indicates that they also have lower rates of turnover and absenteeism than the average employee. By facilitating the hiring of people in recovery, therefore, recovery-ready workplace policies can help employers tap into a dedicated and reliable pool of prospective employees.

1 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2021). Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Table 6.36A.

2 Goplerud E, Hodge S, Benham T. A Substance Use Cost Calculator for US Employers With an Emphasis on Prescription Pain Medication Misuse. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2017;59(11):1063-1071.

3 Boushey H, Glynn S. There are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees. Center for American Progress. 2012. Available at: https://americanprogress.org/wpontent/uploads/2012/11/16084443/CostofTurnover0815.pdf. Accessed December 15, 2021.

4 Tracey JB, Hinkin TR. Contextual factors and cost profiles associated with employee turnover. Cornell Hosp Quart. 2008;49:12–27.