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Employers and employees are required by law to address the issue of alcohol and drugs in the workplace.

The use of alcohol and drugs is growing in society today and the impact is being felt in many different settings including the workplace. The Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence has indicated that 1 in 4 people who seek help for a drug problem are in employment and 3 in 4 who seek help for alcohol dependence are also in employment. In addition to this, about 640,000 sick days are taken due to hangovers every year and time spent off work by people with an alcohol dependency takes a further 1.2 million days of productivity from Scottish employers.

Most employers should expect to encounter problems related to substance misuse at some point. No employer can afford to ignore the risks to their company and staff.

Why should an employer act?

There are a number of reasons for having a proactive approach to alcohol and drugs in the workplace. These include:

  • the health and safety case
  • other legislative requirements
  • the business case
  • corporate image

Failing to address factors that make a workplace unsafe can place an employer in a serious position as far as health and safety legislation is concerned. There is strong evidence that failing to tackle issues relating to alcohol is costly.

    Costs can be due to:

    • increased levels of absenteeism, lateness and sickness absence
    • lower productivity
    • increased accidents and mistakes
    • unacceptable conduct, which may threaten the company’s reputation

    What can you do?


    Healthy Working Lives is a free service available throughout Scotland which offers businesses and employees access to the Healthy Working Lives Award Programme (formerly Scotland’s Health at Work); advice and information on Occupational Health and Safety; a national website and free and confidential safety and health workplace visits for small and medium-sized businesses.

Modified date: 09 May 14 


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