Drugs and Alcohol

by Ian Robinson

The issue

Despite strong recommendations from central government to employers to introduce workplace guidance on drug and alcohol issues, most employers still do not have a drugs and alcohol policy. Those that do have a policy tend to be either very draconian, with a ‘zero tolerance’ approach, or else the alleged policy is just a document gathering dust on a shelf in the HR manager’s office.

Some organisations tend to treat drug and alcohol misdemeanours as a disciplinary issue, but others would prefer to see this type of misuse treated as a medical matter. Either way, it is now very evident that drug and alcohol misuse is a growing problem, affecting not just individuals, but society as well.

In the workplace environment, people affected by alcohol or drugs can be a danger, not only to themselves, but also to their colleagues and visitors to the premises. Many jobs create stress for employees, which can make them more susceptible to drug or alcohol misuse. These dangers are greatly increased when employees operate machinery, or when they drive or have to work in other safety-critical environments.

The benefits of having a policy

An effective drugs and alcohol policy can contribute to a reduction in the negative effects of

  • Adverse health consequences
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Deterioration in work relations or job performance
  • Lowered productivity or turnover
  • Increased accident rates
  • Increased training and recruitment costs
  • Damage to the reputation of the enterprise or organisation.