Alcohol-FreeWorkplace FAQ

Why is it important to insist on a drug-free and alcohol-free workplace?

A drug-free and alcohol-free workplace is the healthiest, safest and most productive place to work. Employee illnesses, accidents, absenteeism and productivity are all affected by substance abuse. The City of London Substance Abuse Partnership estimates that alcohol-related illness and absences cost businesses in the city more than 2 billion pounds each year. Coworkers may be injured in an accident caused by a drug-impaired or alcohol-impaired colleague and workplace violence can occur more frequently when employees have substance abuse problems. The Substance Abuse Partnership estimated that one in four workplace accidents had alcohol as a contributing factor, and that drug abuse contributed to more.

Since 77 percent of the nearly 20 million current U.S. substance abusers are employed, productivity is affected in many companies.

A program to create a drug-free workplace provides a way to strengthen communities by offering people trapped in substance abuse a way out of their problem and back to productivity. A drug-free workplace program should offer: a written policy, access to assistance, employee education, supervisor training and drug testing.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

This is a confidential service to help employees deal with any personal issue that might affect their productivity, including substance abuse. It may be a service provided by a department in the company or may be offered by a vendor contracted by the employer. An employee suspected of drug or alcohol abuse may be referred to an EAP who has the time and the job of focusing on the employee’s problems and enabling the person to get back to work as soon as possible. An EAP can help an employer reduce accidents, sick leave and absenteeism.

I am an employee with a drug or alcohol problem. What should I do?

employee with alcohol problem

If available, review your employer’s Workplace Policy for their position on medical leaves or substance abuse treatment. If there is no policy, ask your Human Resources department about medical leaves or if an Employee Assistance Program is available in your company. The best thing you can do is, if it is not too late, seek help before your work deteriorates badly and you are seen as a liability.  Find out from HR if your company will hire you back after your medical leave under a Return-to-Work Agreement. (See next FAQ.)

Contact a Narconon counselor to learn how we can help you recover from addiction and get back to work.    

What is a Return-to-Work Agreement?

When an employee violates a workplace’s drug-free/alcohol-free policy, and temporarily leaves employment for an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, he or she may be rehired under a Return-to-Work Agreement. This document states the expectations the employer and an Employee Assistance or medical professional have of that employee. It also states what will happen if the expectations are not met. The terms of such an agreement generally require the employee to abstain from substance abuse and assign financial responsibility for any further drug treatment to the employee alone, but the agreement does offer both the employer and the employee an alternative to dismissal from employment. 

Are there some occupations that are more prone to drug or alcohol abuse than others?

The highest prevalence of illicit drug use is found in accommodations and food services and construction. An estimated 17 percent of accommodations and food services employees abuse drugs, along with 14 percent of construction workers. The highest levels of alcohol abuse were found in construction (16 percent), installation and repair personnel (15 percent), and arts, entertainment and recreation (14 percent). Employees often affected by heavy alcohol use and also working in a hazardous environment are workers in mining and excavation.

In the UK, the professions most plagued by alcohol abuse are bar and pub employees, caterers, entertainers and hairdressers/barbers. Male seafarers and construction workers also have higher than average risk of dying due to alcohol-related problems.

What signs should be looked for when determining if an employee has a drug or alcohol problem?

  • Frequent, prolonged and unexplained latenesses and absences especially after lunch or for meetings
  • Avoidance of co-workers or supervisors
  • Accidents on and off the job
  • Lower productivity, missed deadlines, increased excuses for failure to produce
  • Deteriorating personal care or appearance
  • Oversensitivity to correction or criticism
  • Physical signs such as red eyes, slurred speech, unsteadiness, excessive fatigue or hyperactivity
  • Radical changes in mood such as swings from enthusiasm to depression
  • Customer complaints
  • Repeated disciplinary problems

It should be noted that many of these can also be signs of illness or other problems. So the first step in handling is an employee interview to determine what can be done to help them achieve better productivity.

Related Article: Alcohol Today

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