Alcohol testing for the workplace

Alcohol abuse is endemic in many workplaces, especially those where business networking is rewarded and stress levels are high. This is taking its toll on the workforce and the economy. According to the alcohol awareness charity Drink Aware, 17 million working days are lost every year in the UK due to alcohol abuse. The institute of alcohol studies estimates that the cost to the UK economy of this abuse is £7.3 billion per year.

One option many businesses are now considering is the implementation of new company policies to deter their employees from drinking during office hours and drinking to excess after work.

The testing of employees is still a controversial subject in the UK; many people feel that random drug or alcohol testing by a company is an infringement of their personal rights; however, studies have shown that when a company implements drug and alcohol testing in the workplace staff work harder, are absent less often and productivity increases.

In 2012, The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice reported that 19 per cent of employers saw, “an increase in employee productivity after the implementation of a drug-testing program”. Companies that had a high absenteeism rate (over 15 per cent) saw a 56 per cent improvement in absenteeism following new drug testing policies. In addition to fewer days off sick, companies also experienced a lower staff turnover. Fewer staff leaving a business means that there are more highly skilled and experienced staff and less time invested in staff training.

If an employee is dismissed, they need to be replaced. Recruitment and staff training costs a company time and money, which are the most valuable resources. The most experienced employees stop producing while they are training new team members. It is far more costly in the long-term for a business to ignore the problems of substance abuse until disciplinary action, and dismissal, is the only option. It is far better to offer support to individuals who need it and encourage staff to limit their drinking to the weekend.

Caring for your workforce can improve efficiency in so many ways. People respond better to a caring and supportive management. You only need to look to the new tech companies such as Google and Facebook to see how a more relaxed working environment, but one with strict boundaries, can improve productivity. When people enjoy their work they work harder, this is true for all industries. Enjoying work extends beyond the actual tasks involved; it is the relationship with other workers, the management, and the overall company culture that generates happiness in the workplace.

For example, Google is a very laid-back company that provides its staff with many freedoms. They are also famous for hosting their TGI Friday (Thank Google It’s Friday) events, where employees can let their hair down, have a drink and relax with managers and co-workers in the office. However, this does not mean that Google takes a lax attitude towards alcohol abuse. Google’s code of conduct states:

“If a manager has reasonable suspicion to believe that an employee’s use of drugs and/or alcohol may adversely affect the employee’s job performance or the safety of the employee or others in the workplace, the manager may request an alcohol and/or drug screening. A reasonable suspicion may be based on objective symptoms such as the employee’s appearance, behaviour or speech.”

Implementing an alcohol testing policy within your business can reduce absence and increase productivity and efficiency. Alcohol testing is also very inexpensive today and alcohol-testing kits are readily available for on-site testing.

Alcohol testing makes sense for all businesses. A clear company policy will make staff think twice before having that extra drink at lunchtime or after work and it provides an opportunity to identify and offer support to employees who may be turning to alcohol to cope with work or life related stress.

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Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on petejwhite.com

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