Drug And Alcohol Facts From The Workplace

Drug and alcohol use can be an expensive habit and addiction for many people. Employees who use drugs and/or alcohol can result in a lack of productivity, a rise in absenteeism, injuries or even fatalities at work or home, theft, a reduction in employee morale, an increase in healthcare costs, legal liabilities and even workers’ compensation costs.

If you have an employee that is using alcohol or drugs to a dangerous level you might have seen some of the issues we have already mentioned, however if you have an employee with a partner or family member that uses drugs or alcohol to excess then you may also notice significant related problems in their work performance; issues like a change in behaviour, a rise in absenteeism or lateness, a lack of focus or concentration at work, stress or health-related problems and even an increase in the use of their health insurance.

But how much do you really know and understand about alcohol and drug issues in the workplace?

We have put together some facts that may surprise you;

  • Employees with alcohol problems are almost 3 times more like to have injury-related absences when compared to employees without alcohol issues.
  • When patients that have been injured at work were breathalysed in the waiting room, the breathalyser tests detected alcohol in 16% of them.
  • Workplace fatalities were analysed and it was found that at least 11% of the victims had been drinking that day.
  • 20% of workers and managers from numerous different industries reported that a co-worker drinking on or off the job had jeopardised their own safety and / or productivity.
  • A worker that has had 3 jobs or more in the last 5 years is twice as likely to be a current user of illegal drugs, or to have used them in the last year, when compared to those that have had 2 or less jobs in the last 5 years.
  • The most commonly used and abused drug in the workplace is Marijuana, closely followed by Cocaine.

Drug and Alcohol Policy 

According to a CIPD survey in 2007 only 40% of employers had a policy on managing drug and alcohol misuse at work. Of course developing a policy is just a starting point, but policies are essential in ensuring that the company’s approach to managing the issue is set out clearly and in providing a framework to help managers tackle the issue in a consistent way across the business.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

If you considering introducing or already have in place, a provision to carry drug and alcohol testing be careful not to fall foul of the law:

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the right to respect for private and family life. It also covers how organisations hold and use information about employees.

The Data Protection Act 1998 sets out rules to make sure any personal information on employees held by employers is managed properly. This includes any information on employees from drug and alcohol testing.

The Office of the Information Commissioner has published some very useful guidance that summarises what employers can and can’t do in respect to testing employees for drug and alcohol misuse under the Data Protection Act. Adhering to the Information Commissioner (IC) guidance should also ensure employers don’t breach article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Key points to consider:

  • The collection of information through drug and alcohol testing is unlikely to be justified unless it’s for health and safety reasons.
  • Post-incident testing where there’s a reasonable suspicion that drug or alcohol use is a factor is more likely to be justified than random testing.
  • Given the intrusive nature of testing, employers would be well advised to undertake and document an impact assessment.

ACAS suggest you should also be aware of the following legislation 

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – section 2 – places a duty on an employer to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – places a duty on an employer to assess the risks to the health and safety of employees. This means an employer can be prosecuted if they knowingly allow an employee to continue working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and their behaviour places the employee themselves or others at risk.
  • Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – makes it an offence for someone to knowingly permit the production, supply or use of controlled drugs on their premises except in specified circumstances (for example drugs prescribed by a doctor).

Although not applicable to all workplaces, these two Acts also put obligations on employers and workers:

  • Road Traffic Act 1988 – states that any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs shall be guilty of an offence.
  • Transport and Works Act 1992 – makes it a criminal offence for certain workers to be unfit through drugs and/or drink while working on railways, tramways and other guided transport systems.

Supporting an employee who has an addiction

If the employee realises they have a problem, and asks for your support, this could be in the form of various actions, such as referral to occupational doctors, paid time off for rehabilitation, counselling etc. However, this is a two-way street, and for the employee to be entitled to the support they must agree in writing at the onset of any rehabilitation programme that this is fully conditional on them completing all the treatment. In this instance disciplinary proceedings should be a last resort.

Now you know more about drugs and alcohol usage and affects in the workplace we hope you understand just how important it is to have alcohol and drug policies in place for your company.

It is essential that your alcohol and drug policies are used to ensure issues are dealt with effectively and consistently and that your managers are fully trained on how to deal with employees that have drug and alcohol issues, have family members with drug and alcohol issues and / or approach you for help with these drug and alcohol issues.

If you’d like to discuss the implementation of, or conduct a review of your Drug and Alcohol Policy, please contact our team of HR Consultants at aspire cambridge today, on 01223 855441.