Swanswell welcomes calls for pre-emptive alcohol support in the workplace

08 November 2013

Swanswell’s welcoming calls for employers to help prevent problem drinking at an early stage by introducing a number of measures in the workplace.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to an article in the British Medical Journal from the Alcohol Health Network.

It says encouraging employers to take pre-emptive action - such as confidential screening and providing brief interventions - would help ‘reduce harm and increase productivity’ among team members who drink too much.

The article suggests that introducing measures such as these will help employees, who might be worried about their drinking or who might not realise how much they’re drinking, assess risks to their health and take the appropriate steps to reduce harm.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, 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.

‘Prevention is better than cure, so offering employees the chance to voluntarily use confidential screening tools at work and have access to clear information about alcohol could help reduce problem drinking.

‘However, it’s essential that employers approach any identified cases of problem alcohol use sensitively and offer the appropriate support, so that team members feel they can get the help they need without fear of a negative impact on their employment.’

Carole is a former HR Director with over two decades of experience working in global companies. She had a long association with alcohol, at times drinking more than a bottle of spirits a day, and later drinking heavily at weekends, as a result of work pressures.

She said: ‘Sometimes I’d drink without it touching the sides – Friday drinking could spill over to Saturday drinking, it all depended on my mood and it was usually what was happening at work, which provided me with the excuse to drink.’

Carole didn’t tell her employers about her problems with alcohol because she was worried about the repercussions.

She added: ‘When an employee says they have a drink problem, they need to be utterly and absolutely assured that what they’ve told their manager or the HR department is confidential, providing it doesn’t impact the business and they’re not driving around in a fork lift after having a great deal to drink. It’s all about removing the stigma for me.’

Swanswell’s working with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to offer training that helps employers identify substance misuse among the workforce and develop appropriate support for employees affected by problem alcohol or drug use.

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