Controlling impact of drugs and alcohol at work

The majority of employers now have an alcohol and drug policy in place to tackle the issue of substance abuse in the workplace, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review.

The survey of 82 employers – covering a combined workforce of more than 250,000 employees – found that 58% have a policy or are developing one.

Of these, 46% have a stand-alone policy covering both substances 5% have a policy for alcohol and 7% are developing a policy on alcohol and/or drugs.

The main reasons behind employers putting such policies in place included:



  • health and safety (97%)
  • to preserve their reputation (73%)
  • to help comply with legislation (64%)
  • because the employee carries out safety-critical activities (63%).

Other reasons cited included a desire to foster employee wellbeing, to reduce absence, and to avoid poor performance due to substance abuse.

More than a quarter (27%) of employers reported an increase in the number of staff found to be under the influence of alcohol at work, while 21% reported an increase in respect of drugs.

Some of the main barriers to the effective management of the issue in the workplace were society’s attitude to drinking (46%), and its attitude towards recreational drugs (32%). And 20% of respondents also cited the problem of their managers not knowing how to approach and manage employees under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

However, the findings also showed that efforts to manage staff with substance abuse problems and offer advice and support were having some impact.

Just over one in 10 (12%) said the number of staff affected by drink had fallen, while 7% reported a reduction in relation to drugs. And 92% said that at least some of the individuals who had disclosed their problems had been able to keep their jobs.

The report concludes that an effective policy should encourage individuals with alcohol and drug problems to come forward and provide them with advice and support, and clearly explain the role of the disciplinary procedure.

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