While recognising the signs and symptoms of employee substance abuse can be a challenge for HR professionals, partnering with an EAP and organisational development provider can help HR managers and employers tackle these issues in their workplaces.
Shelley Miles, Head of Psychology Services for Assure Programs, says more employers are turning to EAP providers to find ways to retain staff and help manage employees with substance abuse issues.
“Organisations are seeking ways to retain staff and improve the return on investment,” Miles told HC Online.
“Increasingly, organisations are becoming mindful of drug and alcohol issues and in turn, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and the impact of the stressors that are prevalent in society,” she says.
Data from the Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) has previously found that as many as one in five employees have performed their work duties while under the influence of alcohol, with a further 40% attending work while feeling the after-effects.
The ADF has also estimated that drug and alcohol use has an annual price-tag to Australian businesses of around $6 billion, mostly racked up by lost productivity and absenteeism.
Common signs that staff are battling with substance abuse issues include irritability, problems concentrating, extreme tiredness and blurred vision, all of which can create problems for employers and co-workers.
Miles says alcohol and other drugs can impact on workplaces in a number of ways, including affecting relationships, safety and productivity.
She says a significant number of referrals are coming from the employers in the mining and construction industries, who have a No Tolerance policy for substance use that reflects the risky nature of their work.
“Our psychologists have seen an increase in the number of employees being referred to the EAP by their supervisors, and/or Human Resources due to ‘blowing numbers’ or failing random blood tests, particularly on mining and construction sites,” Miles told HC Online.
“A large number of fly in fly out workers are in this category – with the drug of choice we see being alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines,” she says.
But employers can work with their EAP to promote a positive workplace culture and a No Tolerance attitude towards drug and alcohol use at work.
“An EAP can assist to provide change and education at an individual employee, a management and a leadership group level to enable organisations to design and implement sustainable mental health practices,” she says.
“We also work closely with customers to deliver leadership development programs, to better equip managers to identify, respond, plan and support employees experiencing a range of mental health challenges.”
There are a range of actions that an employer may take when working with a staff member experiencing problems with alcohol or other drugs. This can include:
- Being aware of signs and symptoms - including mental health issues, as these are often linked.
- Skilling up/training employers/managers/supervisors to have conversations with their employees.
- Having clear policies and procedures including organisational actions such as fitness for work assessments/ rehabilitation options and/or other consequences.
- Having strong organisational culture/role modelling of good behaviour.
- Having an EAP in place and use the Manager Support Service for advice as well as Manager Referral for a direct/non confidential intervention
When selecting an EAP providers, employers should consider a range of factors, including the quality and professional experience of their clinicians, and the use of evidence-based interventions.
“Lastly, an EAP should have the ability to deliver strong organisational services for individuals, teams and the entire organisation,” Miles says.
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The odds of drug and alcohol issues infiltrating your workforce are significant, with statistics showing that most people who use alcohol and drugs are employed.