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'Functioning alcoholics' pose significant challenge to employers

The number of hidden 'functioning alcoholics' in the workplace poses a 'significant challenge', an international behavioural health conference has heard.

Addiction experts are calling for government action to address the problems posed by rising levels of alcoholism and addiction among professionals in the UK, including lawyers, bankers, doctors and dentists. Research shows that something between 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers, and the British Medical Association estimates that one in 15 healthcare professionals will suffer from addiction. Health professionals are particularly at risk, as they are often reluctant to seek help for fear of being recognised, or they refuse to admit they have a problem.

There are significant economic and public safety risks in turning a blind eye to alcohol and substance abuse in the workplace. The economic downturn has prompted fears that alcohol and drug abuse levels may rise further, with Britain already listed as Europe's drug-taking capital. There are now urgent calls for a more open debate on the issue and better access to help and support.

Addressing alcoholism and substance abuse in the workplace can be particularly difficult issues for employers to address. Acas offers support with having difficult conversations with employees and can help you develop, implement and communicate effective alcohol and drug policies.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions page for more information.

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