Is it goodbye Friday night drinks?

With an estimated 62 per cent of drug and alcohol abusers in Australia in full-time employment, equating to 300,000 Australian workers, the effects of drugs and alcohol represent a substantial source of risk in the workplace – not to mention diminished productivity.

It’s hard to measure the full economic cost, but the expense of absenteeism, injuries, health insurance claims, loss of productivity, employee morale, theft and fatalities are considerable. According to America’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information alcohol and drug users:

  • Are far less productive
  • Use three times as many sick days
  • Are more likely to injure themselves or someone else
  • Are five times more likely to file worker’s compensation claims.

One survey found that nine per cent of heavy drinkers and 10 per cent of drug users had missed work because of a hangover, six per cent had gone to work high or drunk in the past year, and 11 per cent of heavy drinkers and 18 per cent of drug users had skipped work in the past month.

What can employers do?

The best approach is a pro-active approach.  While some companies are going as far as banning Friday night drinks, you don’t need to be so draconian.  There are two simple things you can do:

  • Ensure your company has drug and alcohol policies in the workplaces and
  • Guide employees towards services that help them with the drug and/or alcohol dependency problems.

Develop a workplace culture by educating your workers to be prepared to encourage each other to remain sober at work.

Ensure your employees are aware of the need to refer incidents likely to pose a safety hazard to their supervisor and if the problem is ongoing to the chairperson of the OHS committee.

Publicise the workplace policy and provide a suitable information and education program for all your staff.

Substance dependencies can constitute disabilities, lawyers warn. As such, it is important to make carefully considered decisions about disciplining affected employees.


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