Alcohol absence on the rise

by 23 Jan 2007

CONCERNS THAT alcohol and drug usage is a significant and growing challenge for managers have been heightened due to reported increases in alcohol-related absenteeism within the workplace.

Results showed the direct impacts of this absenteeism on the economy stood at $437 million per year, with 2.5 million work days being lost due to alcohol consumption in 2001.

The report, released by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University, highlighted that while the problem of excessive alcohol consumption within the community has been well recognised, the issues it raises within the workplace have not been widely understood.

“Our research clearly shows alcohol abuse has an economic impact on the workplace’s bottom line as far as profits are concerned,” said Ken Pidd, research and deputy director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University.

The most substantial finding of the national survey of 14,000 employers revealed previous estimates that the extent of alcohol-related absenteeism is quite low and was restricted to people who are traditionally defined as heavy drinkers.

Research by the National Health and Research Council looked at average consumptions per week or the patterns of consumption. This picked up people that may only drink 10 drinks a week but consumed them all in one night.

“When you bring those people into the equation, the cost of alcohol absenteeism and the incidence of alcohol absenteeism dramatically increases,”Pidd said.

Such concerns demonstrate the benefits of introducing education programs for employers to increase awareness of the impacts of drinking outside the workplace on safety and productivity.

A recent ACCI survey of 549 union and non union agreements showed that almost 25 per cent specifically address the drug and alcohol issue.

According to ACTU advocate Richard Watts, there are a number of agreements that are based on assistance to the employee in recognising they have a problem. However, Watts claimed that while random drug and alcohol testing may be the focus of many employers, this is not the answer. “We believe while there may be a place for testing in some incidences, random testing only assists in sweeping the issue under the carpet.”


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