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An Employers Guide to Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug & alcohol addiction can affect you in the workplace

Alcohol and drug addiction can affect anyone. Addicts come from all walks of life and the probability that someone in your workplace is addicted to drugs or alcohol is probably higher than you may think...

It is important, as an employer, to know what to look out for in your employees and what you can do to help should someone be struggling with addiction.

What are the signs that someone is suffering from drug and alcohol addiction?

  • Frequent mood changes
  • Aggression, irritability or confusion
  • Poor judgement
  • Confrontational
  • Regularly turning up late and general poor timekeeping or increased absences
  • Struggling to maintain relationships with management, customers & colleagues
  • Reduced productivity
  • Lack of energy or concentration
  • Reduced personal care
  • Clumsiness, and
  • Anxiety or depression

The warning signs are not limited to those mentioned here but these are some of the most common.

What can you do to help?

How do you know if there is a problem?

As an employer, you could look at various things to see if employees might have a problem. Some of these factors will give employers the right to confront the employee to ask if they need help.

  • Do they have increased sickness?
  • Are they being involved in more accidents?
  • Do they seem to have changed recently personality wise?
  • Do they have reduced productivity?
  • Have you had to discipline them more or for the first time recently?

What do I need to do?

As an employer, you should provide training for your employees. Awareness Training is a simple and effective way to help prevent these problems and let employees know what to do should they develop a drug or alcohol problem. You also have a responsibility to make sure employees are aware of your Drug & Alcohol Policy.

Training should also be provided to managers and supervisors to help them recognise the signs of alcohol and drug dependence in their staff. They’ll need to know what to do if they suspect an employee has a problem, how to handle an employee who voluntarily comes forward with their problem, and what they can do to help and support them.

You should speak openly and honestly in the workplace about drug and alcohol misuse and encourage people to seek help.

Make sure staff know that anything they tell you will be kept strictly confidential. This will give people the confidence to come forward knowing that their personal information will be dealt with professionally. However, if the staff member is breaking the law, in danger of harming themselves, or harming anyone else, then confidentiality may need to be waived.

Employers should also consider the line of work that they are in and if instances of drug misuse could result in serious consequences or accidents. For example, if you work with children, use heavy machinery, or drive.

Employees have the same rights to help and confidentiality as anyone else who has a medical/psychological condition.

Some people may not admit they have a problem because they fear (unfair) punishment or the stigma attached to drug or alcohol addiction. Employers should be clear with staff that these issues will be treated as a health issue rather than a reason to dismiss them.

Employers may face repercussions if an unfair dismissal is orchestrated due to drug or alcohol misuse, especially if it’s determined that you have made no effort to help them.  

What is a Drug and Alcohol Policy?

A Drug and Alcohol (or Substance Misuse) policy sets out a companies stance on drug and alcohol use within the workplace, which will most likely be a zero-tolerance policy. 

Having a Drug & Alcohol policy can make it clear to employees what the consequences are of these addictions and how you view a drug or alcohol addiction, e.g. whether your workplace regards it as a mental illness. It will also include what help is offered to those with an addiction and how to move forward once a problem is recognised by both the employee and employer. 

By having an effective policy it provides employers with a clear structure and protocol to follow when the situation arises. 

What should be in a Drug and Alcohol Policy?

Here are some of the elements that should be included in your policy:

  • An introduction to the policy and what the policy entails
  • The objectives of the policy
  • Definitions - so that people can be clear about what the policy means
  • Any Legislation that is relevant to the policy e.g. the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • The policy rules - what your policy sets out to do and how
  • Training - what you’ll provide to staff and managers
  • How the policy will be implemented - should someone need to be reprimanded for drug or alcohol misuse
  • How to identify drug and alcohol problems - including how to distinguish the difference between a case of misconduct and an ongoing health issue
  • Your referral procedures - whether voluntary by the staff member or by a member of the management team
  • A record of your commitment to confidentiality
  • How you will deal with, and treat, cases of relapse
  • Your return to work and equal opportunities policies, and
  • Your process for monitoring and reviewing - the steps after the employee comes forward and starts treatment for the problem.

Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training

Our Drug and Alcohol Awareness training is suitable for all levels of staff and equips them with the knowledge to recognise the signs and symptoms of substance misuse. This course aims to raise awareness of substance misuse so that it can be dealt with before it becomes a problem at work.

Our course covers, how this substance misuse can affect someone's work, the effects it can have on someone's health and what can be done about the problem including policies. 

Drug & Alcohol Awareness Training