Support for employees key to tackling alcohol misuse at work

24 April 2013

Support for employees is key to tackling alcohol misuse in the workplace says Swanswell, as a new finger-touch system is launched to detect drinking while at work.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to reports that millions of workers could face routine alcohol testing through a device which measures blood alcohol content on the skin.

According to reports in newspaper Metro, users put their fingers on an optical touch pad, which gives results in 10 seconds – a green light indicates a pass and a red light indicates a fail. Operators can set their own alcohol limits.

But Swanswell’s concerned that if technology like this is introduced into workplaces, there won’t be the appropriate support in place for employees who fail the test and may have underlying issues leading to regular alcohol misuse.

Chris Robinson, Swanswell’s Director of Services, said: ‘We know up to 17 million working days are lost every year because of alcohol-related sickness absence, costing employers around £6.4 billion a year, so it’s clear something needs to be done.

But simply testing people using technology like this will not help tackle the problem of alcohol misuse in the workplace, it’ll only further stigmatise people who need treatment and could lead to them having more time off work to avoid testing.

So employers need to have in place robust policies and procedures to identify and support members of the workforce who could be affected by alcohol misuse in a sensitive and appropriate way.

Employees also need access to clear information and better education at work about alcohol, so they can make informed decisions about how much they’re drinking.’

In order to help employers identify and appropriately address substance misuse in the workplace, Swanswell’s created ‘Understanding substance misuse: an employer’s guide’ in association with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The one-day sessions raise awareness of the different substances, their effects, the legal and cultural context, and how it can be managed in the workplace. It also helps identify triggers and dispels some of the common myths about alcohol and drug use.

The courses will run during 2013/14 at various locations and they’re open to employers throughout the UK (subject to booking, payment and place availability).

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