Alcoholism in the Workplace

How does your business handle alcoholism in the workplace? It’s a sensitive subject, but something that that employers are increasingly approaching us to assist with.

Do you know the steps for dealing an employee who may have problems with alcohol, or indeed another addiction? You should have a process in place that works with the employee to recognise that there is a problem, and put steps in place to rectify it.

Why is alcoholism in the workplace a problem?

According to HSE, alcohol is estimated to cause 3-5% of all absences from work. This equates to about 8 to 14 million lost working days – something your business can’t afford to ignore. As well as possibly losing you productivity and money, there is also a real risk from an employee doing their job under the influence. As HSE states, “Alcohol consumption may result in reduced work performance, damaged customer relations, and resentment among employees who have to ‘carry’ colleagues whose work declines because of their drinking.”

How do you know if it is a problem?

This is the most important element – at what point is someone’s possible alcohol addiction a problem to your business rather than an issue for their individual health? You need to set out, as a business, at what point and in what circumstances you will treat an employee’s drinking as a matter for discipline rather than a health problem.

Communication and the training of staff is an important factor here. You must let your workforce know your company policy on alcohol and other substances. Train your managers to recognise signs of alcoholism, general information about alcohol and health and what to do if they believe an employee’s personal situation is impacting on workplace.

What should you do if you believe an employee has an alcohol problem?

Once you become aware of the issue, you must keep accurate and confidential records of instances of where poor performance has caused a problem. You will also need to talk to the worker formally as early as possible.

Concentrate on the instances of poor performance that have been identified, and ask your employee the reasons for poor performance. You could question whether it could be due to a health problem, without specifically mentioning alcohol or drugs. If appropriate, now is the time to discuss your alcohol and drugs policy and the help available inside or outside of your organisation.

You can then agree future action and arrange regular meetings to monitor progress.

If you need further support with alcoholism in the workplace, talk to us today (contact page)

How should I manage Under-Performance?

When an employee is not performing as expected, it can cause a great deal of conflict and many problems within your business. It is not just the employee who is under performing that is the problem, as your entire workforce can very easily take exception and then morale and wider productivity becomes an issue.

So, before your business finds itself in that situation, what are the steps you must take?

Create a Performance Management System

A performance management system can help you identify problems with employees early on, and take steps to remedy them between the manager and employee. This early action will enable you to maintain harmony in your workforce, and stop issues escalating.

Regularly reviewing performance throughout your entire workforce gives you the earliest indicators of any possible under-performance and can create a better atmosphere to deal with these issues quickly and easily.

Solving Under-Performance Issues

If the performance management system does indicate a problem with an employee, your managers must support and coach them to improve their performance. Issues may be outside of the employee’s control, therefore practical actions must be taken to support the employee both in terms of their own work and these outside factors that may be affecting them.

Use an Enhanced Development Plan to support employees. Over a period of two or three months, arrange meetings with employee at least every fortnight to regularly review their progress and performance.

Taking It Further

If the above steps have failed to rectify the under-performance, than your business must then take formal action with the employee.

You must have a disciplinary or capability procedure in place to ensure that the right steps are taken to minimise any risk or miscommunication. Your managers must be well trained in this procedure, which should include the actions taken under the formal action. For instance:

  • Your first action may lead to a first written warning to the employee informing them of the performance problem, the improvement required and the timescale for achieving the improvement, as well as any support your business will provide.
  • The next stage may lead to a final written warning again outlining the problem and the actions that will be taken (ultimately their dismissal) if they do not improve.
  • The third and final stage if under-performance is still a problem will be their dismissal.

Does your business know how to recognise and manage under-performance? If you need support or a review of your procedures, contact me today.

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