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Employers more tolerant but also concerned alcohol and drug use is damaging work

Most employers think that the use of drugs or alcohol by employees in their personal time has an impact on their work. But only a minority of organisations has a drug and alcohol policy in place and an even smaller fraction operates a monitoring regime.

Six out of ten employers (61 per cent) considered private use of alcohol as having an impact on employees at work and more than half (54 per cent) thought the same about drugs, according to a survey of 274 organisations carried out by Blake Lapthorn.

This perception doesn't sit well with the low number of organisations that undertake testing (8 per cent, unchanged since 2004) or awareness training (13 per cent, up from 9 per cent in 2004).

On the other hand, there has been a promising increase in recent years on the number of organisations putting written policies on drugs and alcohol in place, from 19 per cent in 2004 to 36 per cent in 2012.

If anything, attitudes to substance use seem to be softening. Back in 2004, 28 per cent of organisations operated a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol use but in 2012 only 4 per cent apply zero tolerance.

The tolerant approach could be due to organisations seeking to direct their policies more towards rehabilitation than censure. Employees are more likely to seek treatment in such cases, reducing the risk of hiding the problem with all the economic and health and safety dangers that entails.

Employers have legal obligations to their staff in this respect. Without adequate policies and training, organisations are more vulnerable to employment tribunal claims (for unfair dismissal, for example) and less likely to be able to help workers suffering from addiction or substance misuse seek or find help.

It's straightforward to introduce policies and procedures and to train staff on how to implement them. Acas can work with organisations to help them develop, implement and communicate effective Alcohol and drugs policies for the workplace and runs a range of practical training courses for managers. Acas can also advise on the obligations for employers under the law and has published the Advisory booklet - Health, work and wellbeing.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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