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Drinking Problems - Employers overlook alcoholism at their peril

Published 06/10/2008

Around 75 per cent of alcoholics manage to hold down a job. But employers find alcohol addiction problems in personal lives spill out into professional lives, with potentially disastrous results.

Grant Sharp, operations manager for Linwood Group, says: "It could be very dangerous, if a manual worker, for example, isn't on the ball." Drunken-ness at work could be putting the worker and his or her colleagues at risk.

Alcoholics often have poor absentee records, deteriorating productivity and demonstrate irrational or erratic behaviour at work.

These are just some of the telltale signs of drinking employers should look out for. Individuals may also get angry or tearful at times, have bleary eyes and smell of drink. Some take longer and longer lunch breaks or come in talking of family problems, created by excessive drinking. 

Alcoholism is an illness suffered by workers regardless of company position. But managers may find it easier to hide a bottle in the desk than someone on the shop floor.

Whatever the level, the employer needs to confront the employee they believe may have a problem. They can take one of two routes. The punitive approach is to say you suspect the employee of being drunk on the job, and warn the next time she or he will be breathalysed, and instantly dismissed if necessary for gross misconduct.

The second way is more softly softly, but often the more cost-effective one, especially for highly qualified and skilled workers. Here employers offer some support, treat the condition as an illness which requires rehab treatment, and sometimes even foot the bill for that treatment. 

 Contact Linwood Group for confidential advice about alcoholism in workplace.

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