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Employers Count the Cost of Drug and Alcohol Abuse


Four out of ten employers believe alcohol misuse is a significant cause of employee absence and lost productivity and one third of organisations report that drug misuse has a similarly negative effect in the workplace, according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and People Management magazine.

Despite the damaging impact of drug and alcohol misuse at work about four in ten of the 500 organisations surveyed had no policy in place to help them manage the issue.

Meanwhile just a third of those surveyed trained managers to identify the signs of drug and alcohol problems.

Only 38% of employers provided co-ordinated rehabilitation support to help individuals with drug or alcohol problems return to work after treatment. Half of employers provided access to counselling or to occupational health services for employees fighting drink or drug problems.

However the survey found that where organisations refer employees with drug or alcohol problems to specialist treatment or give them rehabilitation support, more than 60% remained working for the organisation after successfully managing their problem.

Ben Willmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser and author of the report said: "Supporting employees with drug and alcohol problems has a high success rate with many individuals returning to work. But organisations must make employees aware of the policies and support in place otherwise they will not have the confidence to hold their hand up and acknowledge they have a problem and need help.

"Since 2001 the number of organisations with drug and alcohol policies has remained around the same (58%) and where organisations do have policies they are doing very little to actively promote them. Simply adding a policy to a rarely used staff handbook is unlikely to ensure the issue is seen as an ongoing priority. Organisations should engage with their employees to ensure that they are fully aware of its provisions - this can be done via staff briefings, poster or publicity campaigns at work, internal notice boards newsletters and email alerts.

"Training managers so that they are able to identify and manage drugs and alcohol misuse in the workplace is also essential. Yet only a third of employers train managers in how to manage these sorts of issues at work.

"Clearly drug and alcohol misuse is an issue which needs to be taken seriously within the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive currently estimates that up to 14 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol related problems, costing British industry an estimated £2 billion each year."


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