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CIPD Survey Highlights Drug And Alcohol Misuse

September 17 2007 - Two fifths of UK employers consider alcohol misuse to be a significant cause of absenteeism and lost productivity according to new research from the CIPD and People Management magazine. A third of organizations also believe that drug misuse has similarly negative consequences.

The survey shows that, in the last two years, nearly one third (31%) of organizations have dismissed employees as a result of alcohol problems and 15% have dismissed members of staff for reasons connected with drugs misuse. Yet the survey found that where employers refer staff with drug or alcohol problems for specialist treatment or provide rehabilitation for busy executives, over 60% remained working for their organization after successfully managing their problem.

Yet only 33% of employers are training managers in how to manage misuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and a mere 22% train employees generally about these issues. Even fewer (12%) respondent organizations have referred employees with drug problems to specialist treatment and rehabilitation in the last two years.

The survey also shows that employers could provide greater support for staff with substance dependency problems with just a half of employers providing access to counselling or to occupational health services for affected employees. Fewer than four in ten (38%) employers provide co-ordinated rehabilitation support aimed at helping individuals with drug or alcohol problems return to work after treatment.

According to Ben Willmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser and author of the report:

"Supporting employees with drug and alcohol problems has a high success rate with many individuals returning to work. But organizations 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 organizations with drug and alcohol policies has remained around the same (58%) and where organizations 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. organizations 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."

Some other significant findings:

  • 22% of employers test for alcohol or drug misuse with an additonal further 9% planning to introduce some form of testing
  • Almost one fifth of employers plan to introduce combined policies on drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace
  • Three fifths (60%) of employers ban alcohol consumption on their premises and 24% prohibit alcohol consumption when entertaining in work time.
  • 27% of responding employers say that they would report employees using illegal drugs to the police


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