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LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, July 26, 2023 -- Data show that, nationwide, 70% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder (about 13.6 million people) are employed. Substance use disorders (SUDs) impact Kentucky small businesses in many ways. SUDs lead to more absences, injuries, and increased costs for businesses, making this a crucial workplace safety issue. Yet workers in recovery from SUDs take 10% fewer unplanned days off per year than the average worker, and the turnover rate for employees in recovery is 12% lower. 

To address the significant number of workers in recovery from SUDs, the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance (KOSHS) program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) has developed a toolkit to assist small businesses in hiring and retaining this significant segment of the population.

The majority of U.S. businesses are small businesses. Census data shows that  businesses with fewer than 20 employees comprise 89% of all employers in the U.S. and employ 16% of private sector payrolls.

“We focused this project on small businesses with twenty-five or fewer employees as they typically do not have a human resources department dedicated to hiring and supervising employees and a review of existing resources identified few tailored to employers of this size,” said Rebecca Honaker, MPH, program director for KOSHS.  

To address the needs of small employers, the KOSHS program conducted interviews with Kentucky businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Twenty-eight employers were asked about their workforce challenges, hiring strategies, history of hiring employees in recovery, hiring policies and procedures, and what resources they would find most helpful. The collected responses from the interviewees were used to guide the development of the toolkit to meet the needs of small business owners.

“Implementing recovery-friendly hiring workplace practices can have many positive impacts for small businesses and employees in recovery. Making these changes can help employers reduce turnover, improve safety and productivity, and reduce health care costs. We also know that meaningful employment helps people stay in recovery,” said Honaker.

A recovery-friendly workplace is a business that puts policies and practices in place to hire, support, and retain staff who are in recovery. Becoming a recovery-friendly workplace benefits business owners by expanding the pool of job candidates and supports employees in recovery by providing a job that gives structure and purpose. 

The Kentucky Small Business Toolkit for Hiring Employees in Recovery contains information for small business owners in Kentucky on hiring and legal considerations for those in recovery, sample workplace policies, and information about programs and resources for both employers and employees.

The toolkit walks employers through the following steps to becoming a recovery-friendly workplace:

  • addressing stigma surrounding SUD,
  • creating a positive work environment that is supportive of people in recovery,
  • taking new approaches to recruiting employees,
  • adopting new policies for hiring people in recovery,
  • using tax credits, bonding programs, and community resources,
  • connecting employees to recovery resources in the community, and
  • promoting a business as a recovery-friendly employer and communicating what that means to current employees and job applicants.


To access the full toolkit, visit the KIPRC website.

KOSHS, an occupational surveillance program of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, monitors workplace fatalities and develops toolkits, fatality reports, and Hazard Alerts to provide targeted recommendations for workplace injury prevention.

KIPRC is a unique partnership between the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. KIPRC serves both as an academic injury prevention research center and as a bona fide agent of DPH for statewide injury prevention and control.