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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 September 2007, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Drink and drugs 'hitting economy'
Man drinking beer (file photo)
Firms must do more to help staff with drink problems, the CIPD says.
About 40% of employers feel that alcohol misuse is a major cause of absenteeism and poor productivity in the workplace, a survey suggests.

And the research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that a third of firms believe drugs had a similar impact.

More needed to be done by firms to rehabilitate those with drug and drink problems, the CIPD said.

Days lost to drink costs industry about 2bn a year, government figures show.

Counselling needed

The CIPD research suggested that 22% of employers currently test staff for misuse of drugs and alcohol, with another 9% planning to introduce some form of testing.

Almost a third of organisations said they had dismissed employees in the last two years due to alcohol problems.

And more than a quarter said that they would report staff to the police if they were found to have used illegal drugs.

Of the firms quizzed, 60% ban alcohol being consumed on the work premises, while 24% do not allow it while entertaining clients during office work time.

Simply adding a policy to a rarely used staff handbook is unlikely to ensure the issue is seen as an ongoing priority
Ben Willmott, CIPD

The employer relations adviser at the CIPD, Ben Willmott, said that firms which helped their staff had a good success rate in getting them back to work - with 60% staying with the company after overcoming problems.

But only half of the 500 employers quizzed gave access to counselling for workers fighting dependencies on drink or drugs, with just 38% offering coordinated rehabilitation.

Training needed

Mr Willmott said there had been no increase in the number of firms offering such rehabilitation services since 2001.

"Where organisations do have policies they are doing very little to actively promote them," he added.

"Simply adding a policy to a rarely-used staff handbook is unlikely to ensure the issue is seen as an ongoing priority."

Mr Willmott said that training managers to identify and manage drugs and alcohol misuse in the workplace was also essential.

"Clearly drug and alcohol misuse is an issue which needs to be taken seriously. Yet only a third of employers train managers in how to manage these sorts of issues at work."

Data from the Health and Safety Executive suggests that up to 14 million working days are lost in the UK each year thorough alcohol misuse alone - costing the economy about 2bn.

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