Drug and alcohol abuse is costing British industry billions of pounds, with poor productivity and accidents at work being the key consequences for Boards of Directors and their managers
Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is costing British businesses dearly, with billions of pounds being lost each year due to employee absenteeism, poor productivity, accidents at work and – on occasion – fatalities. And it's up to employers themselves to watch out for any indications of drug and/or alcohol abuse, and to take appropriate action. If they fail to do so they could be liable to prosecution.

This was the frightening message delivered at a recent seminar on 'Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace', organised by Reliance Security Services at Kempton Racecourse.

The seminar revealed that while alcohol abuse is costing UK industry up to £6.4 billion, the cost of drug misuse has risen to an all-time high of £800 million.

Attendees at the seminar heard that employees with alcohol-induced hangovers cost UK businesses no less than £1.5 billion per annum, while one-in-four accidents and 11-17 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol misuse. Even more concerning is the fact that 60% of workplace fatalities appear to be alcohol-related.

Drug abuse is becoming an equally prevalent problem for UK companies, with drug abusers likely to be 33% less productive at work, three times more likely to be late and four times as likely to hurt themselves or others at work.

Speaking at the event, NHS independent consultant Jamie Deas pointed out that drug/alcohol abuse must be seen to be a major concern for UK employers because 25% of people seeking help for drug problems are actually in employment. "The drugs of most concern to employers," stated Deas, "are the ones used for their effects and which cause impairment, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, prescribed drugs and a number of drugs available over the counter."

Deas explained how companies can guard against drug/alcohol abuse in the workplace by establishing a policy which employees are educated in, and which is monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis.

There are seven main circumstances under which an employee can be tested for drugs – pre-employment, pre-promotion or transfer, on a random basis, routinely, after an accident, for a specific reason or as part of a designated aftercare and rehabilitation programme.