Drug and Alcohol Abuse at Work

Before we get started, here are some statistic for employers taken from Alcohol Change UK;

  • More than 25 million adults in England regularly drink alcohol.
  • Lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion each year.
  • 35% of people say they’ve noticed colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work.
  • 25% say that drugs or alcohol have affected them at work, with 23% saying they had experienced decreased productivity as a result.
  • 27% of people say that workplace stress makes them drink more.

In addition, as a result of the pandemic, a survey by the CIPD has highlighted over a quarter of people say their alcohol consumption has increased either as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic or due to the enforced restrictions on their lives.

Employers have a legal duty, as part of employees’ wellbeing and the health and safety towards others, to protect employees’.

What are the signs to look out for?

Warning signs, could include (taken from HSE);

  • unexplained or frequent absences
  • a change in behaviour
  • unexplained dips in productivity
  • more accidents or near-misses
  • performance or conduct issues

As a minimum, we recommend employers implement the following practices;

  • Have a clear and transparent policy; the policy should set out the Company’s expectations in relation to drug and alcohol use and the consequences of these not being met; a process for employees raising a concern or employee disclosing information; and any support available to employees, e.g. employee assistance programme.
  • Develop a supportive culture; offering support and providing advice to employees with drug or alcohol problems, with the intention to deal with issues at the forefront and prevent potential disciplinary action; remind employees of the Company’s drug and alcohol policy prior to any Company social events where alcohol may be consumed; and as part of the Company’s holistic approach to employees wellbeing.
  • Provide training to line managers on how to deal with an employee with drug or alcohol problems; and build confidence to discuss sensitive issues with their colleagues.

In some safety critical businesses Drug and Alcohol testing may be considered, however Employers can only drug test if there is a drug testing policy that the employee is aware of and agrees to. This may be in the employment contract or staff handbook. The policy should state whether testing is random and / or “for cause” ie, when an incident occurs,

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

Copyright Clover HR



  1. https://www.hse.gov.uk/alcoholdrugs/
  1. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-in-the-workplace


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