Drug and alcohol use in the workplace – the facts you need to know

14 September, 2017

Did you know:

  • Drug and alcohol use costs Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity.
  • Recent research has estimated that 2.5 million working days are lost annually due to drinking and drug use - at a cost of more than $680 million.
  • 1 in 10 workers say they have been affected by a colleague’s use of alcohol in the workplace. This can be due to a reduced ability to do their own job, involvement in an accident or near miss, or having to work extra hours to cover for a co-worker.*

Apprentices and trainees

For many apprentices or trainees, this will be their first job out of school – this means greater independence, and earning their own money or more money than they’re used to.

Often it also means socialising and trying to impress (or keep up with!) older colleagues who may be more experienced drinkers. This can often lead to apprentices and trainees underestimating the effects of alcohol (or other drugs) on their own health, safety and work performance.

Those are some scary stats and facts! But how do they affect you and your workplace?

If one of your employees has an alcohol or drug problem, they may:

  • Have impaired job performance – this can include making more mistakes than usual, missing deadlines, or just a general lack of productivity and efficiency
  • Have increased absenteeism or time-keeping skills (e.g. turning up late to their shift)
  • Be tired or unable to concentrate on tasks, have less energy or display sudden mood changes that affect those around them

Any of these can lead to decreased morale or cooperation between colleagues which in turn can impact the productivity of your wider workforce, and possibly even lead to retention issues.

As an employer, you also have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for your staff, contractors, visitors and – in some cases – the general public. This means it’s vital that you’re familiar with the signs and able to act immediately if you suspect a staff member of using alcohol or other drugs.

Remember - it isn’t just the consumption of alcohol and other drugs during work hours that has a damaging impact on employee health, productivity and workplace safety. If your staff are turning up to work hungover or coming down from drug use from the night or weekend before, this can also affect their ability to safely perform their job.

What can you do if you suspect one of your employees is affected by alcohol or drug use?

When it comes to tackling drug and alcohol use within your company, there are a range of options available to you.

These options can include implementing a drug and alcohol policy, regular training and education or providing an Employee Assistance Program for staff who need additional support. Depending on the industry you work in, you may also consider alcohol and drug testing in the workplace.

You can also contact your local MEGT office and ask about our mentoring support services.

How can we help?

At MEGT, we know sometimes it can be tricky for workers to juggle their personal life and their new job. That’s why we offer a personalised and confidential mentoring service to ensure your apprentices and trainees have the best chance at staying in employment and completing their training.

This service can include:

  • Assistance to develop tools and strategies to address and cope with any issues that may be impacting work or study
  • Development of a “stay at work” plan for an Australian Apprentice who may be at risk of not completing their studies due to work, training or personal issues
  • Regular site visits or phone calls to discuss challenges that may be impacting performance
  • Training sessions for supervisors to provide tools to manage staff issues
  • Access to our free Employee Assistance Program
  • Information, resources and referral to professional support services where required
  • Disability and female participation support services

*Source: adf.org.au