Addiction Help for Employees
As many as 10% of people struggle with addiction in the workplace. This may be noticed especially if an employee falls into the habit of regular absences after having 100% attendance in the past.
Rehab Recovery offers a wide range of support services to employers of addiction patients. Our aim is to help you properly handle problems in the workplace which arise from staff experiencing problems with alcoholism, drug addiction or other self-destructive behaviours in a safe and responsible manner.
The Effects Of Alcohol And Drug Use In The Workplace
When drug and alcohol abuse is taking place in a work environment, there are many negative effects that this can have. For example:
- Productivity may be affected and employees struggling with addiction may not have the skills that they once did in order to complete tasks effectively
- Lateness can be a problem as well as missing days altogether
- Staff morale is lowered
- Professional relationships may become damaged as a result of inappropriate behaviour or conduct
- Accidents may occur and safety can become an issue
- The health of the employee is at risk which can impact their ability to work, their relationships with others and their personal lives
What Does The Law Say About Addiction And Employers?
There are three main areas of the law that concern addiction and employment with the first being the Health and Safety Act of 1974 which states that all employers must ensure the safety and health of their staff members. If an employer knowingly ignores substance use in the workplace, they may be prosecuted.
Secondly, the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 states that it is illegal for employers to allow the production, distribution or consumption of substances. However, this relates to illegal or non-prescription drugs rather than all drug and alcohol abuse.
Finally, the Transport and Works Act of 1992 strictly prohibits anyone who is under the influence from driving on a public road and employers can be prosecuted if they do not prevent this from happening.
What Should Be In A Drug And Alcohol Policy?
Your drug and alcohol policy lays out the standards that, as an employer, you expect and are expected to comply with where drugs and alcohol use is concerned. There are several things that should be included in such a policy, for example:
- A policy introduction
- The objective of the policy
- Legislation relating to the use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace, including that from the Health and Safety Act, 1974 and the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971
- Include any definitions so that those reading the policy can be clear on what it means
- Rules of the policy
- What training will be given to staff?
- How you plan to implement the policy, for example, will there be a consequence for someone using drugs or alcohol at work?
- Referral procedures
- Signs of drug and alcohol abuse
- Commitment to confidentiality
- How the company plans to handle relapses
- Return to work procedures
- How you will monitor and review employees who have previously struggled with addiction
Some Simple Guidelines For Employers
Here are some simple guidelines that can make monitoring and managing drug and alcohol use in the workplace much simpler:
Check the policy to be sure that it is up to date and can be easily understood by all employees. You may wish to employ a counsellor who can help you to figure out the next steps.
Outlining the policy to all employees will not only work towards preventing drug and alcohol use in the workplace, but will alert them to the possible consequences should the situation occur.
Start by initiating a conversation with the employee but do so in an empathetic manner that shows you are concerned about them and understand that they may be struggling.
Stick with the facts such as mentioning that you have noticed a smell of alcohol rather than accusing them of drinking at work. Your body language and tone are crucial during this conversation: approachability yet a position of power are key.
Be sure to document behaviour that may be related to addiction or substance abuse. This may include interactions with other staff members, lateness and lack of productivity.
Also note how these behaviours are different from the normal behaviour of the employee, comparing them to how they perhaps behaved when they first began working at your company.
Plan the desired course of action with your employee regardless of whether they deny or accept there is a problem. You may include 12-step programs, a period of leave, or attending a rehab facility.
Prepare for resistance since many people battling addiction may not accept that they have a problem and this can come out in anger, frustration, or upset.
Depending on the reaction and situation, you must be prepared for every eventuality, including dismissal or perhaps an intervention.
Does Addiction Come Under Disability And What Does This Mean For Discrimination?
Disability refers to a mental or physical impairment that prevents a person from carrying out their day to day tasks. Whilst addiction may cause an inability to perform these tasks, it is not included under the umbrella of disability, unless the addiction was caused through prescribed drugs. However, this does not mean that employers are free to discriminate where addiction is concerned.
Since addiction is responsible for causing a variety of conditions such as depression and liver disease, which are thought to be a disability, courts will look at the treatment of the employee when claims of discrimination are made.
Can Employers Instigate Drug And Alcohol Screening At Work?
There are some industries in which the UK government deem drug and alcohol screening to be of great importance, these may include the armed forces, jobs that involve driving, the police and prison services amongst others.
In other industries, screening is permitted provided that it does not single out any one group or person – in essence, all employees must be subject to the screening. This screening should be included in the employment contract and, if this is a new policy, all contracts should be amended as such.
The contract should detail why screening is taking place, how the tests will be performed and what will happen if an employee tests positive. Employees must provide written consent for screening and once they have, they may be dismissed if they refuse to comply.
Warning Signs Of Addiction In The Workplace
There may be a fine line between someone who is simply having a few off days and someone who may be battling an addiction so it pays to be discreet and look out for the warning signs that the latter may be true.
If you notice that the employee is having more and more bad days, this could be a red flag. It is worth considering their current situation, for example, have they recently suffered a personal trauma? This may be the issue rather than drugs or alcohol, however, there are many signs that addiction is the problem such as:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Physical appearance not being what it once was
- Personal hygiene and grooming are lacking
- Outbursts of anger or aggression
- Fatigue or falling asleep and passing out in the workspace
- Weight gain or loss
- The smell of drugs or alcohol
- Deterioration in performance
- Financial problems – often unexpected or unexplained
- Lacking in motivation
- Being secretive or lying
- Getting into trouble outside of the workplace
What Are Employers’ Responsibilities Around Addiction At Work?
An employer has a duty of care to their employees and this extends to those who are having problems with addiction. It is illegal for an employer to fail to act when an employee is intoxicated or otherwise under the influence of substance whilst in the workplace and they may be prosecuted under the Health and Safety act, 1974. However, employees also have a duty to their own health and safety and that of other employees in the workplace.
What To Do If Your Discover An Employee Is Abusing Drugs or Drinking At Work
The first thing that should be done when someone is found to be under the influence at work is to start a conversation to find out what is happening. Is there some sort of emotional issue? Has the person been struggling with certain aspects of work of life? Why are they behaving this way?
You may consider automatic dismissal but it may be more appropriate to implement a disciplinary plan which may also include counselling or time off to recover. For the most part, it is reasonable that a warning would be given before dismissing an employee. However, if they have broken the terms of their contract by having too much unauthorised time off or committing theft, you may automatically dismiss them.
If you discover that someone is using drugs or alcohol in the workplace, one of the main priorities should be to contact a union rep as they can act as a middle man and make referrals to the appropriate people and places.
You may allow the rep to keep a lookout for warning signs as well as helping to create a drug and alcohol policy. You should closely monitor the person to ensure that there is no risk to their health and safety and take appropriate action such as paid leave or lighter duties. Most importantly, employers should seek to encourage an employee struggling with addiction to access help to recover.
How To Plan An Intervention In The Workplace
Preparing an intervention may often be compared to preparing for a business meeting and there are certain aspects that you need to consider. Most importantly, you cannot stage an intervention spontaneously, it requires careful planning.
- Consider who will attend aside from yourself. This may be family and friends of the addicted person as well as medical professionals or an intervention specialist
- Where and when will it take place? An intervention should not be expected by the addicted person as they may simply not show up. You should plan the meeting for a time and place where you will be uninterrupted and when you know the person will not be under the influence
- Think about how you will explain the effects of their addiction, this might include personal stories of things they have done or demonstrated how their work has suffered. When delivering this information, it is important to remain non-judgemental
- Come up with a treatment plan and express this clearly. You should decide what the plan is and take the opportunity to encourage the person to accept this help
Preventing Substance Abuse At Work For Employers
There are many ways in which employers can tackle the problem of substance abuse at work, take a look at some of the following examples:
- Workshops providing education on drug and alcohol abuse can highlight what problems this may cause and deter employees from using substances in the workplace. This can be done by implementing the workshops yourself or bringing in the help of a professional or counsellor
- Drug and alcohol policies are very important to give your employees a clear guide on your stance
- Drug screening can be a deterrent and can also allow you to discover problems that may be present. Since there are legal requirements surrounding this, it is important to adhere to these
- Resources for those who are struggling can boost morale and reduce substance abuse. Things such as access to 12-step programs, counselling and referrals to other services can be useful
Difficulties For Small Businesses
Small businesses may face problems in getting administrative and financial help in meeting the legalities of addiction in the workplace. Additionally, it may be more difficult to keep conversations confidential in a smaller team of people and this may result in employees feeling that they do not want to confide in their employer.
Small businesses may also be much quicker to implement disciplinary procedures where addiction and substance abuse are concerned and dismissal rates may be much higher.
With that in mind, it pays to be cautious when dismissing or disciplining employees since an underlying medical condition or discrimination could result in a costly legal battle.
What Happens If Employers Ignore Addiction In The Workplace?
Aside from the obvious legal implications, there are many knock-on effects for the company if they ignore the use of substances in the workplace. This may mean increased absences and a loss of productivity, not to mention the loss of employee morale.
In addition, there may be an increase in the number of accidents in the workplace, which again can lead to legal action being taken. Health issues and dangers in pregnancy, as well as risky sexual behaviour, can increase.
Team members are more likely to leave their job giving the company a much higher staff turnover and ultimately costing them money.
How We Can Help Employers
We can offer a wide range of consultative advice to help you sensitively manage the problem of addiction or self-destructive behaviour amongst your employees. As well as offering our free addiction advice service to your employees, we are happy to work with you to assist the most valued members of your team towards recovery.
1. Employer Addiction Services
- Staff training on workplace sensitivity and reducing enablement behaviour
- Employee addiction assessment for at-risk individuals
- Independent advice and referrals to specialist addiction treatments
- Staff seminars to help recognise and address addiction problems
2. HR Addiction Services
We can provide access to specialist training to help those who manage and support staff welfare at work. As well as independent recommendations on the best and most cost-effective clinics to send your staff members to, we can provide referrals to expert service providers who can assist you with managing your business around the problems of your key staff.
- Human resources training on legal and pastoral issues for addiction
- Seminars to help welfare departments identify and handle addicted staff
- Customisable addiction training programmes for HR professionals
- Policy support, including help with the development of key HR policies
Advice For Employees
Addiction is a chronic debilitating illness that takes over your life. It is as equally unrelenting in destroying your career too. If you are concerned about your own behaviours or actions in the workplace, or if your habits are affecting your work, take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions for guidance:
If you are having problems with addiction at work, you should keep in mind that your rights dictate that you should be treated the same as anyone with a medical or psychological condition and your employer should allow you to take time off to recover or attend rehab programs.
Additionally, you may be worried that your employer will want to dismiss you but unless there is good reason, it will cost them less to help you than it would for them to train up a new member of staff.
If you are dismissed, you may be able to take legal action if this was done unfairly since your employer is obligated to provide help as they would with another illness.
Most people are able to recover from addiction and return to work and be just as successful in their jobs as they were before addiction became a problem.
Since the law requires employers to view addiction as the illness that it is, they are not allowed to fire you for seeking treatment to recover and must give you the opportunity to get better before dismissing you.
Some companies may dismiss an employee when they fail to meet the requirements of their employment as a result of addiction however if help is offered early, this need not be a problem.
As an employee, you should make sure that you read and understand the drug and alcohol policy. Additionally, if you are struggling with an addiction, you should see your GP who can provide you with a written diagnosis to show to your employer.
When you speak to your employer, know that you are doing so in confidence and be ready to accept any help they may be able to offer.
You may speak to your GP about treatment and approach your employer to request time off to access this if you need to. If you have a healthcare plan through your employer, this may help in covering treatment costs, so be sure to explore this.
Make sure that you keep a record of anything relating to your addiction and your employment should the issue ever need to be dealt with in a legal capacity.
You have likely spoken to other people about your addiction before your employer so you can feel confident that you have had practice at speaking about this.
Before approaching your employer, be sure to know your rights and the law surrounding drug and alcohol use at work and also feel confident that your employer is aware of this too. Your employer will likely have many ways they can help you and they are unlikely to dismiss you unless your addiction has caused you to break the terms of your contract.
Be prepared to be open and upfront about the problem even it is difficult. Trying to hide something may only cause negative consequences, in the long run, it is better, to be honest from the start.
Finally, remember that addiction is an illness and you should never feel ashamed.
Find out more today
To find out more about our specialist addiction services for employers and human resources department professionals, call us now on 0800 088 66 86.