Alcohol abuse and the impact in the workplace

Alcohol use

While Christmas won’t be the same year, as the festive season draws near it is important that everyone is aware of expectations around their conduct at work, functions, and festivities outside of work. The Code of Conduct highlights the need to behave appropriately in, and out of the workplace, as the consequences can be far-reaching.

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Alcohol abuse can take many forms. It can be a one-off or series of over-indulgences or long-term addiction. What can start off as a quick drink to relax after a difficult day, to ease into the weekend, to celebrate or commiserate, can become a dependency. Alcohol use has reportedly risen during the global pandemic. Many people do not see alcohol as a “drug”. However, what starts off quite innocently and moderate can morph into a much bigger and complex situation that can become controlling and debilitating to both users and in terms of employment.

Managing those with a drinking problem

In general, where someone has a problem with alcohol this should initially be treated as a health issue, rather than one of conduct. Alcohol abuse can take many years to control and other health issues may ensue as a result of long-term use.

Many alcoholics will hide their addiction. Signs that an employee may be over-reliant on its use could include mood swings, sporadic absences, missing deadlines, and a possible deterioration of their work. Greater awareness through the introduction of Mental Health First Aiders and Mental Health policies is helpful and can be a first step in identifying issues and providing support. Employees should be encouraged and supported to seek help and Occupational Health and other organisations such as Drink Aware can provide this and should be signposted.

Managing conduct

There will also be those cases where someone is under the influence at work, has over-indulged at lunchtime or their social drinking leads them into inappropriate actions outside of work which potentially impact their employment.

Being under the influence of alcohol at work is never acceptable and conduct out of work may impact the school’s reputation and/or the suitability of the employee to work in a school. It is important in any situation involving alcohol, or any drug, to challenge and tackle any issues promptly and robustly. This may include disciplinary action where appropriate.

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