Impact on business
Workplaces are often reflective of what is happening in wider society. In Scotland levels of alcohol consumption and harm are at historically high levels with a quarter of men and just under a fifth of women (18%) categorised as hazardous or harmful drinkers. Evidence also shows that those in employment are more likely to drink than those who are unemployed or economically inactive.
It is estimated that alcohol cost the Scottish economy £865 million in 2007. This cost comprises unemployment, premature death (before the age of retirement), absenteeism and presenteeism (where people are at work but there is reduced activity and productivity).
Another study found that:
- 1/3 of employees admitted having been to work with a hangover
- 15% reported having been drunk at work
- 1 in 10 reported hangovers at work once a month; 1 in 20 once per week
- 77% of employers who were interviewed for the study identified alcohol as a major threat to employee well-being and a factor encouraging sickness absence. These figures show that alcohol can and does have a significant impact in the workplace and therefore action to reduce the negative effect is essential.
Alcohol and drug addiction among workers and professionals can have a variety of impacts on businesses:
- Relationships and Behaviours: Inappropriate behaviour can be disruptive and lead to tension and frustrations at work. Client relationships are also affected. Alcohol & drug addiction has a negative impact on family life which also affects work performance.
- Morale: Addiction problems are often ignored which damages staff morale.
- Absenteeism: Sick days due to alcohol hangovers cause disruption in the workplace and lose the company money.
- Productivity: Alcohol reduces the ability to concentrate and this affects work performance including decision-making. It also causes impaired skills, lower quality of work and lack of motivation and judgement. Cocaine abuse might increase alertness initially, but has long-term effects on concentration and memory
- Presenteeism: When someone comes to work and unable to perform at full capacity it effects the entire team. If the customer is in a client facing role the company is at increased risk of damage to customer relations.
- Health: Alcohol & drug abuse cause a variety of health problems: liver damage, cognitive impairment, stomach disorders, high blood pressure, sexual problems and many more. Alcohol is a depressant and can affect moods and cause irritability often leading to sickness absence.
- Safety: Just small amount of alcohol or any drugs can cause a lack of co-ordination, slower reaction times, impaired eyesight and judgement, thus increasing the risk of an accident occurring.
Adapted from ‘Taking care of alcohol issues at work’ by: Dr. Michael G. McCann MD MA DIH MFOM, Board of Directors, Castle Craig Hospital.
It is sometimes hard to tell if you are drinking more than is good for you. Many people drink more than they think, especially when drinking at home. Drinking too much or at the wrong time can be harmful.
- Before or during driving;
- Before using machinery, electrical equipment or ladders;
- Before working or in the workplace when appropriate functioning would be adversely affected by alcohol. 
What is an alcohol and drugs policy?
Major bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) advise that it is an essential part of good business practice for small and large businesses to adopt an alcohol and drugs policy.
Where there is a policy in place, often employers do not actively promote it to staff and only one-third of employers train managers in how to manage these issues at work. The costs, both human and economic, associated with alcohol and drugs at work, the current legislation and the notable links between alcohol and ill health, suggest that policies are becoming an essential part of good business practice.