How businesses can handle addiction in the workplace

Addiction can have a significant impact on a business and it is likely that a small percentage of your employees are suffering from some type of habit. This could be related to alcohol, drugs and gambling or gaming problems and have both physical and mental effects that impact on their role in the company.

As an employer, there are ways you can prevent these addictions getting out of control and help your employees to handle their troubles and overcome problems, to benefit themselves and the business.

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The problem of addiction

We are all aware of many of the addictions that people have, such as drug or drink issues, and these have been part of society for many years. However, with increased stress levels and the gain in popularity of the internet, addictions are becoming more widespread, such as online gambling or gaming problems.

Addictions don’t just affect people on a personal level, but they can also affect their professional lives. Employees can suddenly transform from being punctual, reliable and good at their job to someone who turns up late, doesn’t perform as well as they can and portrays erratic behaviour.

There is not just the performance of employees to think about, but also the financial impact on the business. Employees suffering from addictions can resort to stealing to feed their habit; they have a higher risk of injuring themselves; and taking days off sick can increase your wage costs.

Necessary action

If an employee is suffering from an addiction, as an employer you need to be seen to be taking a tough stance against their behaviour. Employees who are repeatedly late for work or phone in sick regularly should be dealt with according to the company’s terms, including disciplinary action, loss of wages or dismissal.

It’s important that you’re clear about the problems you’ve seen and how this is not acceptable within the workplace. These incidences need to be documented, so you can highlight specific cases if necessary.

Reducing addiction problems

You don’t want addictions to become commonplace within your business and you can take steps to prevent incidences and support employees in their recovery.

Some businesses carry out compulsory drug tests on new employees and as part of ongoing programmes, so that any issues can be dealt with swiftly. A sample for an oral fluid lab test can be taken quickly and without having an effect on the business. The results are processed in a matter of days, so that you can speak with problem employees straight away.

Employees found to have an addiction shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed straight away, especially if they’ve had a previously good record. There are ways you can support them, such as offering a counselling service or allowing them time to attend meetings, so that they can deal with their addiction and continue in their role.

It’s vital that you don’t ignore the addiction warning signals, as otherwise the problems can become worse and harder to rectify. Addiction is more common than we imagine, but by helping your employees you can play a part in their recovery.