Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Telling others about your alcohol use – Help With Drinking

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Telling others about your alcohol use

If your drinking is causing issues in your job or with family and friends, you may need to take some time off from your day-to-day responsibilities. This means you’ll need to talk to your employer, an HR representative at work, or other people about your worries when it comes to alcohol and your health.


In these situations, it’s very important to know what could happen and what your rights are. Here, you’ll find information and links to resources to help you have these conversations, know your rights and understand what could happen next.

At work

If you have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder and it makes it hard for you to do your job, it is legally considered a disability. People with disabilities are protected by the law, and employers are legally supposed to help employees with disabilities.


Learn more about getting diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.

Needing changes or “accommodations” at work


In Canada, you have the right to decide if and when you tell your employer about your alcohol use disorder. If you choose to tell them, your employer is legally supposed to treat the information as confidential and not discriminate against you because of your condition.


Keep in mind:


  • If you are in a position where your safety or the safety of others is a concern, you may be required to not work until you can show that you’re not a risk to yourself or others.
  • If you work in a job where there is drug and alcohol testing, your employer will find out if a drug or alcohol test comes back positive.

If you have not talked to your employer about your alcohol use, and they ask you if you need “accommodation” at work, you have two choices:

  • First, you can choose not to talk about it. If your employer’s questions are because you are not performing well at work or you’ve tested positive on a drug or alcohol test, they may tell you why your performance isn’t satisfactory, and they may:
    • Fire you from your job
    • Suspend you from work
    • Explain the possible outcomes if you don’t improve (which could lead to being fired or suspended)
  • Second, you can choose to talk about your alcohol use and the support you need. This will start the process of figuring out what kind of help (or “accommodation”) you require at work because of a disability.

If you’re thinking of talking about your alcohol use with your employer, but you’re not sure what’s the best approach for your specific situation, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. If that’s not an option for you, there are resources available for you to learn more about your rights at work when you have a medical condition like alcohol use disorder.


You can learn more about accommodations at work from the employer side in Impaired at Work – A guide to accommodating substance dependence (2017), published by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.


To learn more about the legal duty of employers in Canada to accommodate employees with limitations due to a medical condition or disability, visit the Canadian Association for Supported Employment Accommodations toolkit or this Government of Canada website.

When you're a parent

If you are a parent, a primary caregiver, or someone who is currently pregnant, and you have a drinking problem, it’s important to know how your alcohol use may affect your rights and responsibilities.

If you’re going through a separation or divorce and you are in court to decide on shared parenting (sometimes referred to as “custody”) of your child, you may be asked about your alcohol use.


Outside of formal child custody arrangements, a parent’s relationship to alcohol may be questioned if there are worries about a child’s safety. Under Canada’s child welfare laws, professionals who work with children and youth—like doctors, nurses and teachers—have a legal responsibility to report child abuse or neglect if they know or suspect it’s happening. This is called the “duty to report”. Every province and territory has its own list of circumstances that it looks for to determine if a child needs protection. These are called “grounds for intervention”. Intervention can mean different things ranging from family support services to—in extreme cases—removing the child from the home, depending on the child’s needs.

While none of the provinces or territories list substance use by itself as grounds for intervention, it is of course possible for substance use to lead to other grounds for intervention, like neglect or emotional harm.


If you are worried that your alcohol use could lead to your child being taken away from you, you can learn about the “grounds for intervention” for where you live in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Provincial and territorial child protection legislation and policy (2019).


download policy



Drinking during pregnancy


If you’re pregnant and having trouble with drinking, remember that there are people who can help and support you. There are ways to cut down or stop drinking, and it’s never too late to reach out. Reducing your drinking will help support your health and the baby’s health.

Learn more about getting medical help for a drinking problem while pregnant.

alcohol & pregnancy

When seeking life insurance

If you’re looking for life insurance coverage while dealing with a drinking problem, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Health insurance companies consider current alcohol or drug use problems pre-existing conditions. The person in charge of evaluating your application, known as an “underwriter”, will ask some specific questions about your substance and alcohol use. If they find out that you have a problem with substance use, the coverage will most likely be declined or rated as a very large expense to the insurer. This means paying more money for your premiums or the overall cost of life insurance.


Also, if you’re not honest about your alcohol use when you apply or during the evaluation process, and then you make a claim after you have the coverage, your claim will be denied.


For more general information about life insurance in Canada click here.

My experience with a life insurance application was very intimidating and uncomfortable, especially when questions were being asked about my mental health and addictions and I had to explain to someone I don’t know and couldn’t see.

Michelle, person with lived experience of alcohol use disorder