Drug and alcohol misuse are significant issues in society, and therefore also for UK workplaces. Many wellbeing risk factors, such as social isolation and financial pressures, have been heightened by COVID-19, increasing the need for employers to engage with the issue. CIPD research has found that 27% of people say their alcohol consumption has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Employers must ensure they have a clear policy on substance misuse and we recommend that preventing drug and alcohol misuse forms part of their overall wellbeing offering to ensure any need for disciplinary action is coupled with a preventative and supportive approach to help employees get the help they need.

The CIPD’s Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work survey found that only 33% of employers provide information for employees on sources of support for drug and alcohol related problems, and too few invest in line manager capability to manage and support people who are struggling.


Download our resources

As a result, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide (and supporting resources) to help employers, people professionals and line managers not only manage specific incidents, but also to provide the support needed by employees struggling with drug or alcohol problems, as well as the preventative actions they can take.

Download the guide, line manager guidance, line manager training top tips and training scenarios.

Key recommendations for employers

The guide offers advice on the key areas employers should consider when planning their approach to the management and prevention of drug and alcohol issues.

Develop clear and consistent policies and processes

  • Your drug/alcohol policy should set out clear expectations of staff behaviour and the consequences of not meeting these expectations.

  • Clarify the process for employees disclosing their own problem and for those raising a concern about a colleague.

  • Outline any employee assistance programmes or other sources of support, and how to access these.

Build a supportive culture

  • Take a thorough approach to employee health and wellbeing, that includes support around drug and alcohol misuse, to protect both employees and the organisation.

  • Develop a supportive culture that clearly and regularly communicates the support on offer for employees with drug or alcohol problems, with the aim of dealing with issues before they become disciplinary issues.

  • Remind employees of your drug and alcohol misuse policies prior to company social events involving alcohol.

Ensure that your policies align with your organisational culture

  • Drug and alcohol policies should set out aims for the corporate culture and behaviours to support this. Cover expectations around things like entertaining clients, working hours and social events.

  • Ensure that your message is consistent with the business environment and any legal obligations around any safety critical services you provide.

  • If your organisation has business locations outside the UK, ensure that drug and alcohol policies are adapted according to advice from experts in those locations.

Explore our recommendations in full in the guide.

Line manager guidance and training top tips

This guidance provides step-by-step advice for line managers on how to deal with the disclosure or suspicion of a drug or alcohol problem. It also gives guidance on how to work with people professionals and other colleagues to build a supportive culture, allowing line managers to feel confident discussing these sensitive issues. We also provide top tips on planning training to manage drug and alcohol misuse at work.

Download the guidance and training top tips for line managers.

Training scenarios

Despite three-quarters of organisations having a specific drugs and/or alcohol policy, few train line managers about their drug and alcohol policies and procedures (12% provide one-off training for line managers and 25% provide regular refresher training). However, investments in line manager training and awareness were rated highly in terms of effectiveness in helping prevent drug and alcohol misuse.

These scenarios can be used to train line managers on the type of situations they could face and prompt discussion about the best way to manage them.

The training materials also share good practice, and guidance from an employment law perspective, for each scenario. Using the discussion points, employers and people professionals can communicate the support and management of drug and alcohol misuse they want to encourage in their business.

Download the training scenarios

To explore our research findings in depth, download the full report, Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work.

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