Employers urged to call time on workplace alcohol and drug abuse

As many as one third of UK employers say alcohol and drug misuse is a problem at work while 60 percent experience problems in the workplace due to staff drinking.

According to ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), hangovers at work cost employers £6.4 billion a year in lost productivity with as many as 140,000 people going to work each day with symptoms.

Abuse of drugs is also a growing problem, with misuse estimated to cost industry £800 million per year. The problem looks set to rise as drugs become more widespread in society.

So what is the best way for employers to tackle this growing and costly problem? One solution is to ensure your company has a drug and alcohol policy in place and that all employees are clear about the regulations on drinking and drug taking.

Alcohol tolerance does vary from industry to industry eg in some business sectors, employees are encouraged to drink when entertaining clients, while in other jobs, such as driving instructors or company drivers, there is a complete ban.

Whatever the corporate approach to managing drug and alcohol problems at work, it should be communicated to all staff (this can be done via an employee intranet or as part of the staff handbook, with updates and reminders provided regularly).

If there is a union presence in the organisation, its representatives should be informed about the policy and the implications for breaching its directives.

We can help clients draw up a drug and alcohol policy and we usually recommend giving the workforce six weeks’ notice of it coming into force to allow time for consultation and enabling union representatives and employees to air any grievances or concerns.

This also allows time for any employee who may have an addiction or related problem to inform HR and seek assistance prior to implementation.

We also recommend the policy specifies the ‘alcohol in breath’ cut off limit ie 0.35mg/L for driving or even lower for other safety critical roles.

Once the policy formulated and agreed by all relevant parties, a company needs to decide which drug and alcohol testing methods is best suited to their needs.

The options available can be discussed with one of our OH advisors and can include breath testing or urine testing and either carried out randomly, on the spot (if an employee is suspected of being under the influence) or at a new employee starter screening stage.

A company also needs to decide whether they intend to treat any resulting problems as a disciplinary offence, a performance issue or a health issue, or a combination of all three.

To help line managers and supervisors understand more about substance abuse, MOHS runs a drug and alcohol awareness and equipment training half day course for a maximum of up to 10 people.

The course content includes:

  • signs and symptoms – what to be aware of when suspicion arises of drug or alcohol misuse and what to look for around the workplace eg paraphernalia of drug use
  • methods of testing – what testing kits are used for each type of testing and why, windows of opportunity, chain of custody, consent and what happens following a positive result
  • use of tests – ones that can be performed by line managers or responsible people
  • training – in the use of selected equipment

For more information on any of the above, please contact us on 0121 601 4041, email info@mohs.co.uk or go online at mohs.co.uk. Your call will be treated in complete confidence.

Health and Safety

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