Alcohol and drugs at work – why every business needs a drug and alcohol policy

With Covid-19 restrictions easing in England and more businesses welcoming staff back to the office, there’s never been a better time for companies to review health and safety policies and procedures.

But where does your drug and alcohol policy rank in the list of priorities?

The latest figures from AlphaBiolabs’ toxicology laboratory, reported by HR Director, show that workplace drug use is on the rise since the pandemic.

In fact, the number of workplace drug tests returning positive has risen by 54 per cent versus pre-pandemic levels.

This worrying statistic alone highlights the importance of having a robust drug and alcohol policy in place, helping safeguard employees and protect your company’s reputation.

Here, we explore the fundamental reasons why every business should review or consider introducing a workplace drug and alcohol policy.

How does drinking and drug use impact businesses?

The use of illicit substances has a detrimental impact on every business, not just those operating in safety critical industries.

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol misuse alone costs the UK economy more than £7 billion every year, with alcohol-related sick days costing employers £1.7 billion per year; a fact that cannot be ignored as businesses rebuild in the wake of the pandemic.

To find out how companies are addressing workplace drinking and drug use, AlphaBiolabs asked 500 senior managers in safety critical industries (construction, manufacturing, engineering, and logistics) about their substance misuse policy. *

Shockingly, 20 per cent of respondents admitted that their business had no such policy in place. An alarming number considering the important role that health and safety plays in these sectors.

Worse still, 10 per cent didn’t even know if their company had a drug and alcohol policy.  

And even though awareness of workplace health and safety remains heightened following Covid-19, our survey identified that there is still a lot that senior managers need to learn about drug and alcohol misuse.

Out of 500 respondents, one in five senior managers said they were not confident they’d be able to spot the signs of someone struggling with substance misuse, highlighting an urgent need for awareness training.

Why every business needs a drug and alcohol policy and why it should be reviewed

With the above facts and figures in mind, here are just a few fundamental reasons why you should review your drug and alcohol policy – or consider introducing one.

Risk management – reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents

Being intoxicated at work can have serious consequences, especially for industries with safety critical roles such as driving or operating machinery.

The effects of drinking alcohol or taking drugs include a loss of concentration and slowed reaction times; both of which can lead to an increase in incidents or accidents, risk of serious injury or, in extreme cases, loss of life.

By conducting random, for cause or pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, you can help ensure your staff are fit to perform their duties, while safeguarding employees from harm. 

Managing the cost of sickness absence

Figures published by WorkSmart show that up to 17 million working days are lost every year in Britain due to alcohol-related sickness absence.

A policy that includes random testing – such as urine, breath alcohol and oral fluid testing – is a proven deterrent, that can help you mitigate financial loss.

Upholding your duty of care to employees

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a general duty of care to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of employees.

If a senior manager suspects or has knowledge of drug or alcohol use taking place and an accident occurs, both the company and the individual could find themselves liable for prosecution.

Spot the signs of drug or alcohol abuse early – and manage risk

Drugs and alcohol affect people in different ways, but there are a few tell-tale signs that a person may be struggling, including loss of concentration, increased sickness absence, poor decision making, irritability, increased conflict with colleagues or supervisors, and tiredness/sleeping on the job.

Awareness training on how to spot the signs can help management and staff recognise when a colleague is abusing drugs or alcohol at the earliest opportunity, safeguarding employees and helping protect the company’s reputation.

Drug and alcohol testing at work from AlphaBiolabs

Whether you’re an SME introducing workplace drug and alcohol testing for the first time, or a large-scale enterprise reviewing your existing policy, it’s worth considering how a substance misuse policy can help mitigate risk and financial loss.

Want to learn more? Join our Workplace Company Trainer, Barbara Wainwright, on 17th May 2022 (8:30am) for our free webinar: ‘Why every business should have a drug and alcohol policy’.

During the session, Barbara will discuss the risks of operating without a policy in place, as well as best practice industry examples, and how and when to implement your policy.

Register now

As a UKAS-accredited testing laboratory, AlphaBiolabs has extensive experience working with UK employers, making us well-placed to provide guidance on your drug and alcohol policy as well as the best workplace testing services to suit your company’s needs. 

Our services include testing for cause (where drink or drug use is suspected), random and pre-employment testing, management and employee awareness training, post rehab and return to work testing, and assistance with policy review and creation.

Want to learn more? Call us today on 0333 600 1300 or email and a member of our Workplace team will be in touch.

Sources: *Find Out Now, survey of 500 senior managers in safety critical industries, commissioned by AlphaBiolabs (construction, manufacturing, engineering, and logistics).