CIPD Voice: Issue 25
Drug and alcohol misuse are significant issues within society and therefore also workplaces. Particularly at the moment, with numerous surveys showing some people are drinking more as a result of the pandemic, businesses need to ensure they are effectively supporting their workforces. Substance misuse is primarily a health, safety and wellbeing concern and can ultimately lead to incidents and accidents as well as both performance and productivity issues.
We are calling on employers to take a more preventative and proactive approach to supporting employees who may be vulnerable or struggling with misuse. Employers need to begin by recognising and framing drug and alcohol misuse as a health, safety and wellbeing concern, not just a disciplinary issue. Encouragingly, our new research on Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work found that around half of employers do view and manage misuse as a combined health, safety and wellbeing and performance/disciplinary issue. However, one-fifth said it’s treated as mainly a performance and disciplinary issue.
The benefits of treating misuse as a wellbeing issue
Disciplinary action shouldn’t be the default position in every case and supporting employee wellbeing is crucial regardless of whether formal disciplinary action is required. By treating misuse as a wellbeing issue, this can:
- Encourage people who are struggling to come forward and ask for help and support.
- Support an employer’s duty of care to staff.
- Prevent problems becoming real issues in the workplace.
- Enable organisations to retain talented people.
- Enhance the employer’s reputation through supporting people in a difficult time in their life.
- Just 12% of employers provide one-off training for line managers on their drug and alcohol policy and procedures, and just a quarter provide regular training on them.
- A quarter of employers train line managers to recognise the symptoms of drug and alcohol problems.
- A third invest in improving management practice in managing and supporting employees more generally.
- High workload and not attending the usual place of work.
- Changes in caring responsibilities (we know many people are still juggling work and home commitments).
- The survey report going into more detail on many of the issues raised here
- A practical guide for employers with a strong emphasis on how to take preventative action and the importance of supporting employee wellbeing.
- Guidance and training scenarios for line managers on their role in preventing and managing drug and alcohol misuse at work.
Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser
Jill Miller joined the CIPD in 2008. Her role is a combination of rigorous research and active engagement with policy makers, academics and practitioners to inform projects and shape thinking. She frequently presents on key people management issues, leads discussions and workshops, and is invited to write for trade press as well as offer comment to national journalists, on radio and TV. She specialises in diversity and inclusion, employee well-being, people management in SMEs and future HR trends.