Drug and alcohol misuse can have a significant impact on an individual and as a consequence, on their place of work. Substance misuse costs businesses across the UK over £7 billion and issues such as absenteeism, lower productivity, injuries and possible legal implications.

Furthermore, employers have a legal responsibility to safeguard employees’ health, safety and welfare. As a result, companies are increasing their efforts in addressing drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace for the purpose of supporting their employees and protecting business interests.

Impact of substance misuse on the Workforce

Whilst workplaces can feel the impact of substance misuse, workplaces may also exacerbate the issue; almost 30% of those misusing substances report that occupational stressors lead to an increase in intake.

Research indicates that there are some industries in which employees are at greater risk of substance misuse or dependence, these include but are not limited to: construction, mining, arts, entertainment, hospitality, utilities and wholesale.

Furthermore, studies conducted have been able to identify various working conditions which increase the likelihood of substance-related harm: low job security, shift work, poor working conditions, changes within the workplace, drinking/drug culture and occupational stress/conflict.

What effect does alcohol use have on the workplace?

A decrease in productivity due to alcohol overconsumption costs UK businesses over £7 billion per year, with 40% of employers claiming that alcohol does impact productivity within their workplace, and 23% of employees admitting that their alcohol intake lowers their productivity levels. Overall, 167,000 working days are lost each year to substance misuse across the UK.

What effect does drug use have on the workplace?

The UK economy loses £15 billion yearly to drug use, with employers losing £7.3 billion per year in productivity decrease as a direct result of drug misuse. Approximately 27% of employers report that drug misuse is a problem in the workplace. Research reports highlight that 65.7% of adult drug users and 75% of illicit drug users are employed, equating to 17% of the total workforce.

What to look out for

It is important to know that misuse is not the same as dependence or addiction. There are potential signs that may help you to recognise drug and alcohol misuse in employees such as:

  • Frequent/unexplained absences
  • Unusual and uncharacteristic decrease in productivity
  • Accidents occurring
  • Change in behaviour
  • Conduct/performance concerns

However, it is important to be aware these can also be signs of other issues such as stress or anxiety.

What can employers do?

Communication and working together with employees to raise awareness of the effects of drug and alcohol misuse (PAM Wellbeing training workshop – if applicable). Having a clear policy, with thorough guidance to support both management and employees. Providing education to staff members including training around any workplace policies, signs and symptoms, health implications and support available.

Signposting those struggling with substance misuse can benefit both the employee and the business: PAM Wellbeing’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Wellbeing Management Referral and Drug & Alcohol Programme. Additional external support services include AA and FRANK.

To find out more about how PAM Wellbeing can help, please call 01925 596244 or email salesenquiries@pamwellbeing.co.uk to set up a consultation