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Drugs and Alcohol

Drug and Alcohol addiction in the workplace

It is thought that 10% of the population suffer with drug or alcohol addiction1 so it is to be expected that some of the problems caused by the addiction could be present in the workplace.

Substance abuse in the workplace can be a coping mechanism for workplace stress, depression or anxiety but also can become acceptable, and even encouraged behaviour, if there is a strong culture of client entertaining and work nights out.

What are the impacts of substance abuse in the workplace?

Alcohol and drug abuse (illegal and prescription or over the counter drugs) by employees can impact on performance, concentration and increased risk taking behaviour in the workplace.

This can endanger not only the employee but also their work colleagues around them and have a serious impact on their work performance.

Absenteeism can also be a problem; it is estimated that up to 5% of absences in the UK are due to alcohol related issues and a survey by Drugscope and Alcohol Concern found that three quarters of HR managers claimed alcohol misuse had caused staff absenteeism. The national cost for this is estimated at £2bn a year. Drug use is not as common but the survey found a third of organisations have suffered drug-related absenteeism at a cost of £800mn2.

Is it illegal to use drugs or alcohol at work?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have general duties to protect their workers’ health and safety.

If there is a risk to workers through the use or presence of drugs and alcohol, employers have to carry out risk assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. We can help you understand if you are conforming with legislation and any improvements that can be made.

Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who might be affected by their behaviour at work under section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

How do I know if my employee is abusing drugs or alcohol?

There are some very obvious signs, such as turning up to work drunk or hungover, taking long lunches, smelling of alcohol and showing withdrawal symptoms.

Sometimes the signs are not as obvious and drug abuse can be difficult to spot because some abusers can perform consistently well over long periods.

What can we do to help?

The study by Drugscope and Alcohol Concern found that only 19% of HR professionals thought they had the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with a drug or alcohol problem with staff.

We know that helping an employee who is showing the signs of a substance misuse can feel like a minefield and we can be here to help you.

Our senior occupational health advisors will work with your employee to understand the issues involved and what the triggers may be. We can then work with the employee and organisation to put any adjustments in place that might be helpful and arrange further treatment for the employee for a range of issues that are commonplace with substance abuse, such as depression and anxiety.

To find out more about how we can help you please contact one of our experienced Occupation Health Advisors on 0203 761 7027 or
2Drugscope and Alcohol concern survey

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