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Workplace interventions for alcohol and other drug problems

You may be struggling with how to approach an employee about their drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace. This is a difficult situation to be in as you may not know how to address the person with the addiction. Often, workplace interventions are an effective way of address employees with alcohol or drug abuse symptoms. In this blog, drug and alcohol rehab experts Port of Call has consulted the Chartered Institute of Personnel and development for some expert HR advice.

Mental health in the workplace

The CPID have proven years’ worth of excellence in their field and are experts at supporting members of staff who show signs of substance abuse. ‘Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work: A guide for people management professionals’ by the CPID has a wealth of practical and incisive support for HR managers to consider when faced with such a scenario. Here we will outline the main recommendations.

Develop an alcohol policy

Your organisation should clearly state the rules of alcohol abuse in the workplace. Workplace policies should be fully consulted before being implemented and should apply to every employee. It is important that you leave yourself enough time to tailor this process, so that it can be fully effective. Be sure that you’re taking into account your employer and employee responsibilities.

“Policies should be designed to encourage employees with drug or alcohol related problems to seek help, and to assure them that they will be treated fairly and confidentially,” say the CIPD. “In enforcing the policy, managers must be trained to recognise the signs of drug or alcohol dependency, and to be competent in basic interview skills.”

Effective management

In any field it is important that managers are able to identify performance issues and communicate any problems with the employee. A conversation raising an employees work performance should be carried out in an informal one-to-one setting, return-to-work interview or during an appraisal. The main goal is to help the employee seek help for their alcohol or drug abuse. The employee’s performance should then be monitored against targets.

“The manager should be seen to be firm but also fair, demonstrating qualities of concern and empathy, combined with practical, non-judgemental advice and direction,” according to the CIPD. “The tone of this discussion between manager and employee is crucial. An aggressive or hectoring attitude by the manager is likely to drive the substance misuser into denial.”

Providing appropriate support

Communication is key in every sense of a working environment, even more so where drug and alcohol policies are concerned. Be sure to effectively communicate the support available to your staff. From the beginning of employment, or even at the interview stage, be sure to clarify the company’s policy on health support. Once a problem is declared, reassure the employee of their job security.

“It can be difficult for people to admit to themselves or others that their substance misuse is out of control,” the CIPD continues. “They need to know that their alcohol or drug problem will be treated as a health issue wherever possible, rather than an immediate cause for dismissal or disciplinary action. The main aim will normally be to encourage any employee with an alcohol or drug dependency problem to voluntarily seek treatment.”

Health screening at recruitment

Although policies should be applicable to every employee, it is important to consider the needs and requirements of individuals. If someone is showing signs of substance abuse, take into account the type of addiction, as well as considering their job role.

“Anyone who has overcome drug or alcohol dependency has not done so easily,” the CIPD state. “It takes courage, determination, effort and commitment. Over time individuals will have addressed their issues, become self-aware and developed many strengths, not least the desire and capacity to change.

“Such individuals can be effective employees, particularly if they receive the support required for all new employees, including induction, appropriate training and ongoing line management support.”

Think carefully about drug and alcohol testing

The CIPD suggests that organisations who introduce testing regimes for drug and alcohol misuse at work that are disproportionate to the company’s inherent health and safety or business risks could foul of the law.

”In addition, research by the CIPD has found that organisations that seek to monitor their employees excessively are unlikely to create a work environment that encourages trust, loyalty and commitment,” say the CIPD.

Consider the legalities

As employers, it is important that health and safety legalities are complied with for the benefit of employees and third parties. The employer is responsible for removing any dangers and to ensure a safe working environment for employees. An employee showing signs of addiction could be a danger to other employees, and their destructive behaviour could result in increased levels of supervision, suspension or dismissal in extreme instances (preceded by appropriate warnings).

”Employees have an individual legal responsibility in relation to their own health and safety and that of their colleagues,” say the CIPD. “In theory, they could be sued for negligence if they fail to carry out their work with reasonable care due to the influence of drink or drugs and cause damage or injury as a result.”

Contact Port of Call about workplace interventions

If an employee of yours may be in need of drug or alcohol addiction help, please us call on 08000029010 or emailhelp@portofcall.com to arrange a workplace intervention. We can full organise an intervention led by a qualified counsellor or interventionist.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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