Employee has an alcohol problem

What should I do if I suspect an employee has an alcohol problem?

In the first of our guest blogs, we look at what you should do if you suspect an employee has an alcohol problem. These issues can often be very complex to manage, especially if the employee denies that there is an issue in the first place. However, where the employee asks for help, the first response should be to help where you can. 

I’ve personally seen the devastating impact that alcohol can have on people. In 2014, my brother died from an alcohol related condition and I, for one, would love to be able to help just one person be free from such a destructive pattern of behaviour. That’s why I was so keen to partner with one of the UK’s leading rehabilitation organisations to spread the word about the valuable service they offer. Although I haven’t used them personally and therefore can’t endorse them from experience, I do recommend the below advice and urge employers to support employees with alcohol problems wherever possible.

Now over to the Rehab Clinics Group for their blog.

Employee has an alcohol problem

Employees and alcohol problems

Do you currently suspect that an employee is suffering with an alcohol problem? If this is new to you as an employer, where little exposure to alcohol abuse has recently been experienced, you’ll probably find it difficult to deal with this sensitive subject. 

There is also a vast stigma attached to alcohol abuse in today’s society. It’s commonly a taboo, along with mental health issues, which would never usually be discussed in the workplace. However, with the rise of alcohol problems, entering and impacting the workplace, it is important that this stigma is broken down.

If you suspect that an employee has an alcohol problem, here’s exactly what to do to protect them, while also dealing with alcoholism in the workplace.

The common signs of an alcohol problem.

Understanding the signs of an alcohol problem is very important as an employer. Some side effects of alcohol abuse can in fact resemble additional illnesses, mental health issues or personal life problems. With this in mind, before acting on an employee’s alcohol problem, we advise increasing your knowledge of the common signs.

  • The inability to continue through life as normal – whether that’s workplace performance and time management, to maintaining professional relationships.
  • Mental health problems, with a focus on depression, anxiety and paranoia.
  • Higher absences from work, commonly with unexplained reasons.
  • Greater motive to consume alcohol outside of work.
  • More hangovers, in the workplace.
  • Physical side effects, including bloodshot eyes, nausea, tiredness, and smelling of alcohol.
  • A rise in comments made over an employee’s alcohol problem.

The influence of alcohol can be highly dangerous. The inability to continue working to standard will be present. The increased risk of developing mental health and physical health problems is likely. Drinking alcohol at work or outside of work, negatively impacting the workplace can also cause concerns; from financial losses to health and safety.

With this in mind, if you do suspect that an employee has an alcohol problem, it’s important that you act proactively, while following a compassionate stance; to benefit both your employee and company.

Working too hard

Why should you deal with employees with alcohol problems compassionately?

In the first instance, your aim may be to protect your company. This is a natural instinct as an employer, considering the financial losses or potential danger from a health and safety point of view. With this in mind, your first initial step may be to employ disciplinary actions. This of course is understandable if damage, accident or injury has been experienced, affecting the workplace.

However, when dealing with an employee’s alcohol problem, it is important that you think rationally, and lower the employer hat. Once the suspicion has turned into facts, and the dust has settled, you’ll probably feel a duty of care towards your affected employee. This is natural, especially with the rising number of work-related mental health issues, affecting many employees.

With this in mind, if your motive is to support your employee, it is imperative that you follow a compassionate approach. It’s likely that they are already suffering through their alcohol problem. They may have suffered in silence for some time, tipping over the edge. This is your chance to advise and support your employee, along with recommending the next best steps to protect their future health and career, while also securing your workplace.

See our tips on how to deal with an employee’s alcohol problem below. This is a serious subject that should be dealt with proactively.

Frequently asked questions at Cornerstone

How do you deal with an employee's alcohol problem in the workplace?

Once your suspicion has in fact resulted in factual evidence, that an employee is suffering with an alcohol problem, it is important that you firstly have a workplace policy in place. This will strengthen the support you can offer your employee, ensuring that the correct steps are in place to motivate rehabilitation.

Alongside this step, it is important that a meeting is arranged with the affected employee. Commonly, a HR representative will be present to offer support and reassurance. It is important that this meeting is relaxed, supportive and deviates far from a disciplinary themed atmosphere. Here’s some guidance on what to do if an employee has an alcohol problem…

  • Be prepared for an initial pushback. Your employee may struggle to open up about their alcohol problem and the underlying causation. It’s important to let them open up in their own time.
  • Follow a caring, supportive and empathetic approach throughout this meeting, ensuring that your employee knows you’re on their side.
  • Provide factual information to support your cause for concern.
  • Avoid any negative language, including the words addiction, addict, alcoholic, users and problem.
  • Explain the concerns linked to an alcohol problem. Focus on health concerns, along with the impacts on the workplace/their job.
  • Share how addiction or an alcohol problem can affect anyone. With the right support, this can be worked through – privately and effectively.
  • Offer guidance on the next best steps. Remember that the decision is in your employee’s hands. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re present as a listening ear, as an observer. Your job is to support and guide through the next steps of an employee assistance programme.
  • Guide the affected employee to seek advice from occupational health. This will offer the opportunity for counselling, along with further addiction treatment.
  • Once your employee is open to change, look at discussing their opinion on the workplace, and whether further support can be offered. Whether that’s a change in responsibilities or workplace benefits. 

Support is the key

After following this process, you’ll soon be ready to support your employee through an alcohol problem. However, if you do require further support, Rehab Clinics Group offer professional referrals, followed by comprehensive alcohol rehab treatment programmes.

The most important factor is that your employee knows you’re there for them, while sharing proactive steps for recovery. If you suspect an employee has an alcohol problem, dealing with this privately, compassionately and professionally is a must.

Need HR support?

If you are struggling to deal with complex issues like the ones described here, we can help. We have experienced HR professionals who can help you with your employee relations issues. Call Rob on 07494 161169 or Nicci on 07908 875146 for help and assistance.

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