Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Drugs and Alcohol in The Workplace - What's the Cost to My Business?

The total alcohol-related output loss to the UK economy is estimated to be £6.4b, this figure does not account for illegal and prescription drug use. Regardless of the substance used the implications for business are huge, not least from a financial, legal and productivity perspective. All businesses should have an effective drugs and alcohol policy in place, but at the time of writing (2011) many organisations: small, medium and large still do not have effective policies and procedures in place. In the UK many business are not even aware of their legal obligations under the Misuse of Drugs act 1971, which clearly states that the production, supply or use of controlled substances is strictly prohibited on their premises. An employee's drug use at work could well see your business contravening this act, albeit unwittingly. For other businesses the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Transport and Works Act 1992 also apply. Organisations where employees drive on company business or organisations in the transport sector will find themselves particularly vulnerable. It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that their staff are fit to complete their work. In the work environment drug and alcohol use must be seen as everybody's business. Drug and alcohol use in the workplace does not only have negative consequences for the individuals involved but it can also impact on safety, productivity and absenteeism. The problem of absenteeism is particularly striking with an estimated figure of 17 million lost working days per year due to alcohol and drug use often quoted. Some Industries (mainly transport) have adopted drug screening programmes as part of their drug policy. The rationale for such a regime can appear sound, especially in the transport industries, but even here screening cannot exist without effective policy. All organisations must have effective policies and procedures in place which support staff whilst making it very clear that drug and alcohol misuse will not be tolerated in the workplace. Organisations must embark on a full range of interventions which educate, protect and support their staff, managers and customers. These interventions are vital to ensure that drug and alcohol use and its associated problems in the workplace context do not affect those working for or using the respective services. Consultation can also be provided to develop effective policy which can ensure that when an issue arises the company has the skills and tools needed to support their staff and act in the best interests of the organisation. Thankfully for business, specialist companies exist to provide solutions to the private sector, these solutions range from training for staff around healthy lifestyles to training for managers and senior staff on how to deal with these issues should they arise. Some providers can provide policy design and development services and even provide retained staff for a fixed period, this ensures that should such an issue present a qualified and experienced professional is just a phone call away to provide much needed advice and support.

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