Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Addiction in the workplace: Would you seek help from your employer?

If not addressed, substance abuse in the workplace can be costly and dangerous for an organisation, but most importantly it can put an individual at great risk.

New research reveals that people in the UK would be concerned about coming forward to their employer if they were to have an addiction problem. In fact, one in five fear their employer would terminate their contract if they were to open up about an alcohol or drug problem.

The news come from a new report by addiction help and support service Port of Call, which also reveals 24% of the UK would be unsure what would happen to them if their performance had been suffering at work due to an addiction problem.

Organisations have a duty of care to their employees, and the attitudes to addiction report highlights that employers may need to be more open about their policies around addiction and what support would be offered.

Fears around the perceptions of addiction also mean that people would be put off about seeking help- 36% of those surveyed said they would not get professional help for fear it would hinder future job prospects.

The research also shows more women fear their contract would be terminated if they suffered from addiction than men - 19% of men said they thought they would be handed their P45 if they revealed they were reliant on drugs or alcohol, compared to 26% of women.

Recent data* has shown that 1.3% of the adult population are alcohol dependent, if this is accurate it would mean a significant amount of people would be dismissed from their current roles.

The report also revealed:

  • People aged 55+ would be most likely to keep their addiction support a secret (14%)
  • Almost half (49%) of people aged 55+ were the least worried about an addiction impacting future job prospects
  • 24% of 16-24 year-olds thought their employers would put them on a final warning if they admitted to suffering from an addiction

Port of Call founder Martin Preston commented on the report findings:

 “Most people who call us are in full-time employment and don’t want their employer to know they have an addiction problem, often for fear of losing their job.  Addiction is a shame-based illness and people can have a fear of being ‘found out’.

“We also take calls from employers who are trying to help a colleague, and often, even those with large HR and people teams, are unclear about what the firm’s stance really is.

“Most organisations have a zero- tolerance policy around alcohol and drug use, which they require for health and safety, yet rarely have awareness of, or access to, specialist addiction treatment services.

 “Some firms, thankfully, are more progressive and we’re retained by a number of larger employers who genuinely want to help their people. If you’re employing more than ten people, addiction is an issue that you’re almost certain to encounter.”