The Nelson Mail reported on Tuesday this week that New Zealanders are in the second highest tier of pure alcohol consumers in the world consuming 10.9 litres per capita. It is therefore no surprise that employers are increasingly facing alcohol abuse issues in the workplace.
At Christmas we noted one of our client employers requested that one of their employees get a medical check-up and report as it had been noticed that their usual performance level at work was deteriorating over recent months. The client was concerned and wanted to be sure the employee was not suffering from an undiagnosed health issue.
Prior to receiving the report from the doctor, thankfully the employee had the courage to admit to her employer that she was having alcohol problems and receiving treatment for alcoholism. She indicated that this was likely to be the cause of the performance impairment.
The good news about this was that the employer appreciated the honesty of the employee and supported the employee to receive further treatment and counselling for the alcohol abuse. The employer discussed and agreed a plan with the employee for future treatment, required attendance, use of alcohol that may affect work hours and performance expectations ongoing at work. The employee’s honesty with the employer opened lines of communication, gained trust and resolutions to resolve the issues and effects it was having at work. We are yet to see the long term implications of this on the employment situation and any effects on other staff members.
This is an unusual case however. Often an employer may request a random test to be completed and find a positive result. Then, depending on the workplace policies or clauses in an employee’s employment agreement, a positive result may be the cause for stand-down or dismissal.
While the issue is faced by many employers it is of greater concern for our wider communities with the ongoing social and economic costs inflicted by the large consumption of alcohol. Recent changes to blood alcohol levels when driving, recommendations to reduce youth exposure to alcohol sponsorship and advertising and strict rules around the sale of alcohol may all help but one thing is for sure; we will see more employers and workplaces affected by alcohol consumption.
We like the proactive approach by this employer and would encourage others to manage similarly if at all possible. It certainly highlights the need to have workplace policies for alcohol use and the effects that private consumption may have during work hours.
Have you as an employer faced issues with staff alcohol use or as a work colleague having to deal with another person’s alcohol abuse? How did you find the best way to deal with the situation?
by Paul Bell