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8 July 2013 Alcohol and drug use is costing Australian businesses $5.2 billion a year in hidden lost productivity and absenteeism.

In a Policy Talk paper just written for the Australian Drug Foundation, workplace drug and alcohol experts Dr Ken Pidd and Professor Ann Roche report that alcohol use is responsible for:
• five per cent of all Australian workplace deaths, and
• up to 11 per cent of non-fatal injuries.

Australian Drug Foundation Head of Workplace Services, Phillip Collins said the annual cost of absenteeism due to alcohol alone is estimate at up to $1.2 billion.

“The costs of lost productivity or absenteeism due to alcohol and other drugs are well hidden in most businesses,” Mr Collins said.

“Employers and HR departments simply don’t have enough information to attribute the days of work their staff are missing as being due to drug and alcohol use.”

“Alcohol and other drug use, especially when it’s outside work hours, is a hard issue for many businesses to deal with. Many resort to targeting individual ‘problem’ employees, which is misguided. This paper we’ve just released about good practice workplace programs shows there are much better ways for businesses to respond.”

Mr Collins said businesses who implement good practice alcohol and drug programs use an approach tailored for their workplace.

“Each workplace has its own unique customs, practices and conditions which impact the workplace culture, and drug use, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer unfortunately. There are however four basic components central to any effective workplace alcohol and drug program.”

“Workplaces need to develop and implement a sound formal written alcohol and drug policy which fits the organisation’s needs and addresses workplace specific risks."

“Education and training about drugs and alcohol is necessary to ensure employees understand your organisation’s policy and have enough information about alcohol and drugs in the workplace, including the risks of harm."

“Employees need to have access to confidential counselling and treatment services, and they should be provided with paid or unpaid leave to attend sessions. By investing in providing access to these services, organisations can avoid the financial costs and loss of morale amongst co-workers associated with employee dismissals."

“Ongoing evaluation of alcohol and other drug programs is essential to long term effectiveness. Like any business program, we need to regularly review and improve processes to make sure they reflect changes in the workforce or improvements that can be made.”

Mr Collins said a preventive alcohol and drug workplace program can help organisations of any size become healthier, happier and more productive.

Read the Australian Drug Foundation’s PolicyTalk paper “Workplace alcohol and other drug programs: What is good practice?”
For more information on our workplace services, including a free trial of the Australian Drug Foundation’s online workplace training program, ADF Aware, click here.