Tough approach on drink and drugs failing to work

Most employers tackle drink and drug problems with disciplinary action even
though they accept that it is the least effective response.

CIPD research shows that two-thirds of the 281 organisations that responded
would discipline an employee for drug or alcohol abuse. This is despite seven
out of 10 HR professionals claiming that employee assistance schemes are the
most effective way of reducing drink and drug problems.

A disturbing number of employers do not even have a policy on drug and
alcohol misuse – nearly half, claims the research.

Diane Sinclair, the CIPD adviser on employee relations, said that more
companies should look at prevention and get policies in place.

She said, "The priority for organisations should be to raise awareness
through education programmes. The emphasis should be on prevention or
rehabilitation with dismissal as a last resort.

"The key message is that not enough organisations are taking a
proactive approach to the problem. Companies shouldn’t wait for something to
happen, they should have a policy in place and give managers the tools to

Those organisations that have introduced a drugs and alcohol policy have
done so to combat absence problems, and the public sector has been the worst

Around half of the employers with policies say they offer counselling
services, with the majority referring staff to an occupational expert. About a
third of employers would allow staff paid leave while they receive treatment.

"HR professionals should be taking a leading role in formulating policy
and it’s not enough just to mention it as part of a disciplinary policy. As
many in the survey recognised it’s also a health issue," said Sinclair.

Earlier this year, joint research by Personnel Today and Alcohol Concern
showed that nearly a third of employers were considering introducing random
drink and drugs testing in a bid to cut the number of accidents in the workplace.

By Ross Wigham

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