Half of UK organisations have no policy on drugs and alcohol

Mar 28 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

New research from the Chartered Management Institute and Priory Group reveals that only around half of all managers think that their organisation has put in place - or is developing - a policy on drugs and alcohol.

Moreover, while 85 per cent of managers are confident that they would be able to recognise signs of alcohol misuse, only 54 per cent claim to have the same ability to spot misuse when it comes to drugs.

Thankfully, 87 per cent of managers working in the uniformed or emergency services say that they do have a policy in place.

Up to 14 million working days are lost each year to alcohol-related problems and 27 per cent of organisations report issues due to employees' misuse of drugs. The estimated annual cost to UK industry is £3.5 billion, yet many managers are still not equipped to deal with this issue in the workplace.

One in five managers claim that alcohol misuse in their organisation has risen over the past few years and around one in six managers claim that drugs misuse has also increased.

More than six in ten managers feel that it is the responsibility of employers to provide education on the effects of drugs and alcohol abuse, but only 19 per cent say that their organisation addresses the issue proactively.

“The results of this survey show that drugs and alcohol are becoming increasingly recognised as a major concern in the workplace,” comments Dr Chai Patel, Chief Executive of the Priory Group. “But it is very evident that a significant proportion of organisations have not yet put the resources or support in place to reduce the potential problems that misuse of these substances can cause.”

Not only does the hidden menace of drugs and alcohol in the workplace affect individuals; it can also impact on overall organisational performance through increased risk of accidents, poor judgement or prolonged absenteeism.

More than half of managers - 55 per cent - support random drugs and alcohol testing in the workplace and over a quarter (26 per cent) want to see those tested positively for drugs dismissed instantly. However, one in three managers feel that random testing would be an invasion of privacy.

Help is at hand though for employees working in organisations which have adopted a drugs and alcohol policy: 71 per cent of such businesses offer counselling or guidance, and around half offer referral to an occupational health practitioner or specialist agency, (57 and 46 per cent respectively).

"We are heartened that our research shows that almost a quarter of UK employers (23 per cent) are fully committed to tackling the issue of drugs and alcohol in the workplace with the full commitment and involvement of senior management," says Christine Hayhurst, director of public affairs at the Institute. "However, it is a concern that nearly half of all managers surveyed (48 per cent) indicate that their organisation only responds on an ad hoc basis when drugs and alcohol misuse arises."

Alcohol is clearly the drug of choice however for the one in three managers who feel that consumption of alcohol on company premises should be allowed, compared with 55 per cent who feel that it should be banned.