Employees with a drink problem have the same rights to confidentiality and support as they would if they had any other medical or psychological condition. Disciplinary action should be a last resort.
A court may find a dismissal unfair if an employer has made no attempt to help an employee whose work problems are related to drinking alcohol. The cost of recruiting and training a replacement may be greater than the cost of allowing someone time off to obtain expert help. If employees’ drinking is a matter of concern, they should be encouraged to seek help from their GP or a specialist alcohol agency.
Increasingly workplaces are looking to take action on a number of levels to reduce alcohol-related harm and create healthier and more productive workforces and working environments. There are a broad range of interventions which can be carried out within the workplace to address alcohol issues. Each workplace will be different and therefore the approaches used will vary.
What can be done to reduce alcohol harm in the workplace?
Introducing a workplace alcohol policy:
The policy should clearly state the company/organisation’s position around alcohol (and sometimes drugs) within the workplace. Many companies and organisations choose to have an alcohol-free workplace. The alcohol policy will clearly outline the rights and responsibilities in terms of dealing with alcohol-related problems in the workplace should they arise. The policy will also outline what support will be offered and in what circumstances disciplinary action would be taken.
Alcohol awareness sessions with employees
When developing or revising a workplace alcohol policy it is important to keep all staff informed of the process for this, including what the proposed/revised policy will cover and when this will be implemented. To support this, it can be useful to have an alcohol awareness session for staff which helps build understanding about why this is needed and the benefits to the workforce. Check out our no alcohol April.
Training for managers/supervisors
To ensure the meaningful and consistent implementation of the alcohol policy, it is critical that all managers and supervisors have knowledge and confidence to handle any issues which arise. Training on the key elements of the policy and how to conduct workplace interviews if required can be vital to ensuring the policy is used effectively
For more information check out Alcohol Focus Scotlands factsheet on alcohol and the workplace.