September 22, 2020

dealing with alcoholism at work

In the U.K. there is an increasing problem of alcoholism in the workplace. It can be a challenge for employers to realise that there is a problem and then recognise the specific signs which may indicate that the problem is alcohol related. There are many issues that result from alcoholism in the workplace. An employee may have problems with health and safety, produce poor quality work, have more absenteeism and poor timekeeping. Long term this can affect productivity, revenue and company reputation.

Summary of dealing with alcoholism in the workplace

5 tips

  • create a written policy on dealing with alcoholism in the workplace
  • create written records that document any incidents relating to employee alcoholism
  • remain compassionate to your employees problem
  • have a relationship with an alcohol rehabilitation programme
  • stay positive to aid the recovery

The impact of these issues can alter the work culture of the business as relationships between staff become strained due to colleagues being forced to undertake more work or redo work which has been substandard.

This increases the stress felt by the workforce as well as them having concerns about their colleague. In turn, this will cause problems for employers and can affect the business and their revenue significantly.

Alcoholism in the workplace

Knowing what to do if you suspect that an employee is suffering from alcoholism is essential. These tips will help employers to recognise the signs of alcoholism and guide you through the steps to take to resolve the issue. 


How to Spot Alcoholism in the Workplace

Workplaces are often stressful and pressured environments for employees. It can be hard to distinguish between an employee who is suffering from anxiety and stress or one who is suffering from alcoholism. Making that distinction is important for the right actions to be taken.

The following are signs to consider: 

  • Have you noticed increased absenteeism from an employee?
  • Are records showing more accidents and injuries?
  • Have you noticed physical signs of drinking such as a hangover, tiredness and nausea?
  • Is the employee making more mistakes and not meeting deadlines?
  • Have you noticed the employee showing signs of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression?

The answer to these questions could indicate that alcoholism is behind your concerns although you should also consider other mental health or life issues.

Keep a record of incidents and issues that you have noticed or that have been reported by other colleagues. This will help to provide a detailed trend of any problems.

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Why Is It Important to Deal with Alcoholism?

Alcoholism can cause serious difficulties in the workplace that can have severe consequences for both the employee and the employer.

The employee could have developed problems with their mental and physical health. They may also have marital, family and personal relationship issues. It is vital that employers offer support and assistance to an employee who they feel may have alcohol issues.

This can be extremely challenging and remaining calm can help the employer to prepare to support the employee.

An employee who has consumed alcohol on work premises could be in breach of their contract but terminating their employment should only be done if other measures are not possible.

An employee with alcohol problems is in a weak position and it may be more beneficial to be sympathetic providing that the issue can be addressed swiftly to prevent accidents. The employer must consider the effects that this has on other employees and avoid any further reduction of productivity. Supporting an employee to fully recover may enable them to return to full health and be productive again.

Five Tips for Dealing with Alcoholism in the Workplace


step 1

Written Policy

There should always be a written policy to deal with alcoholism and abuse of alcohol in the workplace. The HR Department should advise on the legalities so that the policy offers support to affected employees as well as considering the business needs. All employees should have access to the policy and all managers should have regular training on dealing with alcoholism in the workplace. The policy should include ways to direct employees to appropriate support and treatment programmes. 

step 2

Document Incidents

The employer should have written records documenting incidents and issues that have triggered the concerns about alcoholism. Discussions should be sympathetic and understanding to create a positive environment. The focus should be on the issues and not judgemental. This will create an opportunity for the employee to be open and should help to avoid false accusations. 

step 3

Remain compassionate

The employer should remain compassionate and sympathetic to the causes of alcoholism. The employee will be vulnerable and will require support to allow them to be open about their situation. This will enable the employee to engage with suggestions regarding rehab to help them on the pathway to recovery.

step 4

Rehabilitation Programmes

The employer must have an excellent knowledge of alcohol rehabilitation programmes. The employer can help the employee to engage in the right rehab treatment by advising where to get professional help.

step 5

Positive approach

A positive approach and sympathetic environment can make all the difference to how engaged the employee will be with the steps for recovery and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Treatment Options

Having followed the steps above, the employer should create an action plan to help the employee who is having problems with alcohol in the workplace. It is recommended at this stage that the employer should seek professional support for the employee.


First, the employer should consider, in discussion with the employee, the different support options which the employee can access. Their personal circumstances will dictate whether they should consider inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Inpatient treatment will require a prolonged absence for the employee which will need to be authorised. Outpatient treatment can include support groups and therapies which can fit outside of working hours. This may benefit employees who need less intensive alcohol rehab treatment and who would like to keep some of their usual routines.

We recommend that employers contact Rehab Clinics Group for more advice on the inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes that we offer. They are experts in dealing with alcohol issues. By working out a plan together it is possible to support employees who have problems with alcohol to fully recover and have the very best outcome.

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