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Alcohol and the workplace

Alcohol and the workplace

As far back as 1994 a survey of Personnel Directors stated that 90% of them believed alcohol consumption was an issue in their company, 17% a major issue. Nearly 25 years on and these figures are still being published by the HSE and our experience over this time has mirrored this.

Alcohol abuse has a major implication on the individual, other employees and your company. With a legal responsibility for you to look after your employee’s health and wellbeing it’s vital that you know the signs, so we’ve put together this handy guide to support HR teams.

What are the issues for an employer?

Alcohol abuse in employees can have a devastating impact both on the individual nd for the company, and you need to consider both.

Employees misusing alcohol (or drugs) are less productive and this can lead to performance issues, lateness, absenteeism and poor discipline, impacting on the company’s performance.

There are also safety implications, both for the employee and their colleagues. Operating equipment whilst under the influence or driving can be extremely hazardous to all and to the public.

There may also be a reputational and image risk to a business depending on the employee’s role. This may cause a loss of business and potential value of your business.

Working with a colleague with alcohol issues can be frustrating at time and if they’re not seen to be fully functioning leads to impact on team morale and cohesion and employee relationships which heightens underperformance.

What are the signs of alcohol misuse?

Spotting the signs of alcohol misuse can be very difficult, it’ believed around 70% of users maintain employment as what’s labelled ‘functioning’ alcoholics. So, what should you be looking out for? The physical signs of excessive use of alcohol are:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach problems
  • memory loss
  • blackouts.

Alcohol has an impact by slowing down the brain and the processes of the central nervous system’s processes, this in turn has a detriment on work performance.

What are the legal implications?

It’s important to know the legal impact of alcohol on your business as there are implications that go beyond the individual:

  • It’s illegal to allow an employee under the influence of excess alcohol to work (Health and Safety at Work Act), it is also illegal to knowing allow drug taking activities
  • It is also illegal to allow controlled substances to be produced, supplied or used on an employer’s premises (The Misuse of Drugs Act)
  • Finally, it’s illegal to allow drivers of road vehicles and transport system workers to work if they are under the influence of drugs while driving or unfit through drugs (The Road Traffic and the Transport and Works Act).

What can you do to help?

  • Promote Employee Assistance Programmes and access to support
  • Keep an open-door policy and see it as medical need rather than a disciplinary, ensuring your staff know that you are there to help on this basis first
  • Have a policy on alcohol (and drug) use in the workplace
  • If you implement screening, ensure it is fair and individuals are not discriminated against
  • Seek help if you suspect an employee has an issue and you don’t know what’s best for them. Act quickly before it spirals.

The Hygrove boast a team of highly trained and experienced individuals including counsellors, medical practitioners that can support you should you suspect an individual has an issue. Please get in contact if you need advice and guidance.

Should your employee need to use The Hygrove for their recovery and rehabilitation we also have access to several skilled consultants who can step into their commercial shoes so that your business doesn’t suffer in their absence.

For a more in-depth study, Alcohol, drugs and the workplace – The role of medical professionals: A briefing from the BMA Occupational Medicine Committee 2nd Edition, July 2016 is useful.

Or contact a member of our team who will be able to answer your queries and assist you.

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