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Workplace experts offer advice on alcohol and drug problems

Tuesday 19 June 2012

One third of employers say that alcohol and drug misuse is a problem at work and 60 per cent experience problems in the workplace due to staff drinking. Although a sensitive issue, the potential cost to business means that this is a problem which needs to be addressed.

Employers will hear from leading workplace experts on how to tackle the issue of drugs and alcohol at work at the latest Acas conference in Birmingham next month.

Substance misuse can have a damaging impact on workplace productivity as problems don't just affect individual performance but their colleagues as well. Alcohol related sickness absence alone costs the UK economy over £1.9 billion a year, accounting for 5 per cent of all workplace absence. In extreme cases substance misuse can also risk serious harm from accidents and injuries.

John Taylor, Acas Chief Executive, says:

"It can be hard for an employer to make the distinction between acceptable use, such as social drinking and when this tips the balance. Having the right policies and procedures in place will protect and support those that need help and give appropriate guidance on how to deal with the situation."

Managers need to know what signs and behavioural changes to look out for when an individual is in need of help and the treatment options that are available.

And in some industries for example, such as the transport industry, it is a criminal offence for certain workers to be unfit for work. If an employer needs to introduce testing at work, they will need to do so lawfully.

Malcolm Boswell, Area Director, Acas West Midlands added:

"Employee health and wellbeing at work has a crucial role to play when seeking to achieve a balanced approach to what is a common problem. Many organisations find out that the number of their employees engaged in drug taking and problem drinking is far greater than they envisaged and too great to be dealt with as a matter of discipline alone."

The conference will give employers, employee representatives and occupational health practitioners, the opportunity to hear the different expert perspectives from health, legal and employment professionals and from those organisations that have already had to deal with some of these issues.

Peter Singleton from the drug and alcohol missue charity, Swanswell, will outline the treatment options available and the impact of the right support for individuals and organisations; Ian Tew from Synergy Health will describe range of drug testing options available to employers; and employment lawyer, Robert Smith, of Thompsons Solicitors will provide an update on the legal implications.

Employers will also hear first hand from Brendon Batson MBE a special adviser to the Football Association and former footballer with West Bromwich Albion, about the measures they have taken to positively address drug and alcohol misuse in sport and Group HR Director at Culina Logisitics, Richard Berry, who will share his experience of the challenges facing any organisation which seeks to address this issue.

Brendan Batson says:

"Sport has a long history of drug testing and provided it is done in partnership with the players unions it can bring benefits to all parties."

The conference will take place on 12 July at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham. To book a place call 08457 47 47 47 or visit

Notes for editors

  1. Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  2. A Survey by DrugScope and Alcohol Concern (2001) found that 27 per cent of employers say that alcohol and drug missue is a problem at work and 60 per cent experience problems in the workplace due to staff drinking
  3. Worksmart from the TUC estimates that up to 14.8 million working days - between 3% and 5% of all absences - are lost each year due to alcohol. Sickness absence due to alcohol is estimated to cost the UK economy over £1.9 billion a year

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