HR in denial over drink and drugs epidemic gripping City workers

Despite evidence that drink and drug abuse is growing among City workers, HR professionals in the sector are refusing to discuss the issue.

Earlier this month the Priory Group private healthcare firm launched an advertising campaign targeting over-indulging City professionals.

Dr Neil Brener, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory, who practises in the City, said alcohol dependency and misuse were commonplace among high achievers who lead stressful, 24/7 lifestyles.

He said alcohol was predominantly the drug of choice, although many City workers use recreational drugs, such as cocaine.

But when questioned by Personnel Today on the issue, HR directors were overwhelmingly silent.

Even members of the City Personnel Group, an organisation which promotes best practice HR in the financial services sector, refused to comment.

Industry bodies such as the London Investment Banking Association and the British Bankers’ Association said personnel policies were down to individual employers, and one HR director Personnel Today spoke to said drink and drug misuse was “not a major problem”.

However, anecdotal evidence from support groups and healthcare providers has caused experts to disagree.

Richard Phillips, director of policy and services at Alcohol Concern, said the culture of drinking in the City was becoming more problematic.

“Some organisations go into denial because they have such a strong drinking culture and it kind of becomes accepted,” he said.
Rory Murphy, joint general secretary at Amicus, the union which represents workers in financial services, said at the root of the problem was the City’s overtly macho management style.

“There needs to be a culture change among executives. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sure the personnel director at a big bank would deal sympathetically with any staff member who came to them with a serious alcohol problem,” he said.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said it was vital for employers to have a clear policy on substance misuse and ensure there was support available for individuals.

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