Support is key to tackling drink and drug problems

Employers are being urged to tackle drink and drugs problems at work after
research revealed that UK industry loses about £2bn a year through related
illnesses.

The report from the London Chamber of Commerce found 43 per cent of firms
have no workplace alcohol and drugs policy.

The business body is calling on employers to conduct random tests on staff
to combat substance problems in the workplace.

Sally Storey, HR director for Bournewood Community & Mental Health NHS
Trust, said it was important to support staff who have substance abuse
problems.

"I’m not surprised by the fact that 43 per cent of firms have no
workplace policy in place. My experience is that the public sector is well
ahead of these issues."

"But you also need a support mechanism for staff with drug and alcohol
problems. In our trust, we have a confidential counselling service to help
staff with problems."

Other findings from the report reveal that workplace problems may result
from staff getting drunk or taking drugs outside office hours as well as during
them. The research found that workers are more likely to admit to a drink
problem if they feel it will be dealt with as a health problem and not result
in immediate disciplinary measures.

Piers Merchant, director of campaigns at the London Chamber, said,
"Companies need to treat such problems very sensitively and offer as much
support as possible. They should devise properly thought-out policies on how to
tackle the problem and how to deal with employees found to be under the
influence of alcohol and drugs."

He added, "As part of their overall approach, some companies might
consider measures such as a complete ban on drinking during working hours or
random alcohol or drugs tests."

By Karen Higginbottom

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