Alcoholism in the Workplace
- Date: Tuesday 23rd August 2016
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The way in which alcoholism is being managed in the workplace has changed dramatically over the past decade. Employers now take their responsibilities in regards to Health and Safety more seriously and high expectations in a competitive market force staff to perform consistently. Therefore, letting people get away with hangover days or ignoring performance issues due to alcoholism is no longer an option.
Alcohol Concern have published some shocking statistics, such as:
- More than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended daily limits
- In the UK, in 2014 there were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths
- Alcohol was 61% more affordable in 2013 than it was in 1980
This month, the British Medical Association’s occupational medicine committee has published new guidance on best practice in terms of recruiting people with alcohol or drug dependency issues.
The main challenge identified by the BMA is to address stigmas associated with alcoholism and to change the mindset that the illness is self-inflicted and of no concern to the employer.
Negative stereotypes are now being challenged with reports emerging of respectable and capable workers or business people performing well in their careers while privately suffering the effects of this illness.
Since alcoholism can in most cases be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, individuals affected by this addiction are covered by a protected characteristic. Therefore, rather than implementing punitive measures such as disciplinaries, employers should consider reasonable adjustments and support to help the individual to perform. The best way of doing this is through education and regulation.Alcoholics Anonymous is just one of many organisations providing guidance not only to the directly affected but also to employers and relatives. Sponsors are available for workplace educational talks and these sessions can open peoples’ eyes to the illness and how to deal with it.
In terms of regulation, changing your organisational mindset through policies is important. Drugs and Alcohol Policies should offer support and guidance to employees, rather than simply threatening with automatic disciplinaries and dismissal. Managers should keep an open mind when it comes to addressing performance shortfalls and consider how alcohol might play a part when it comes to concentration or accuracy issues.
Clearly, there are still situations when employees should be suspended from certain duties when under the influence (i.e. driving or operating machinery). But with alcohol related issues now costing the NHS more than £3.5bn per year, employers must realise that they do play a role in supporting and educating employees who suffer from alcoholism.
Source: Manuela Grossmann