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Addressing Alcoholism in The Workplace - Cobalt HR

September 17, 2020by cobalt.admin0

If you become aware of an employee consuming alcohol at work or see obvious signs of alcoholism then, as an employer, you need to know what to do. It can be a difficult challenge to resolve alcohol issues due to the delicate nature of the problem, but alcoholism can have a very negative impact on the workplace and must be addressed. The person who is having a problem with alcohol may deny they have a problem as they may be embarrassed.
If accused, they may be hurt and feel they are being treated unfairly. Nevertheless, as the employer, you have a duty to protect all your employees from the effects caused by alcoholism.

Although you will wish to protect your vulnerable employee, it is essential that you confront the issue directly in order to solve the problems. You have a duty of care towards all employees and the first course of action should be to ensure that health and safety requirements are adhered to in order to prevent any accidents or injuries. Only then can you take steps to deal with the affected employee. Without a doubt, this will be an extremely challenging thing to undertake but should be very worthwhile if successful.

The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?

Understanding the different terms used regarding alcohol misuse is very important in order to take the correct actions. There are different ways of dealing with an employee who is abusing alcohol rather than suffering from alcoholism.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abusers have a physical reliance on alcohol. This is a problem in its own right and more importantly, it can also lead to alcoholism.

The first dilemma will be in getting an employee to admit that there is a problem. If they accept the issue, then they may be able to resolve to change their behaviour by themselves. It will be important to use a sympathetic approach to create a positive environment for the employee to open up about their issues and take responsibility for making a change.


Alcoholism is an addictive condition that has an element of psychological dependence as well as physical. The problem is more challenging, and it is likely that it will have more negative consequences on the employee’s work performance. It may affect the relationships between colleagues and customers which will not be good for the company’s reputation.

Alcohol abuse can often be dealt with at work, supported by the employer. Providing the employee is willing to make changes to their behaviour and cooperate with the employer there can be a successful resolution. Alcoholism is more serious and, due to the greater risks and dangers, it requires external support from professionals who can assist the employee to have a positive outcome.

The Impact of Alcoholism in The Workplace

Alcoholism has many negative effects on both the employee and the workplace in general:

  • An affected employee may have serious mental health issues as a result of their drinking.
  • The employee’s work performance will be affected negatively. The employee may have time management issues and produce poor quality work. Their reduced output may lead to other employees taking on more of the workload which will cause resentment and stress.
  • You may notice changes in the employee’s personality which affects their relationships at work and leads to resentment and difficulties in teams. Their thinking may also be impaired leading to poor decision making.
  • The employee may often be absent from work, leaving others to pick up their workload.
  • Health and safety can be seriously compromised by an employee suffering from alcoholism. This can lead to more accidents and injuries involving not just them but also colleagues who may suffer injuries as a result of their recklessness.

Addressing Alcoholism in The Workplace Effectively

Addressing these serious issues promptly is extremely important and problems should not be ignored. Despite the challenges, it is important to take action to solve the problems. It is important for the employer to have a positive and unjudgmental attitude towards the affected employee so that other staff can see you are honouring your duty of care and being supportive whilst being proactive.

It is important for every workplace to have a written policy and training for dealing with alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The HR Department should support this and give legal advice and then the policy should be available to all staff to read. Every policy should be supportive and deal with issues around mental health and welfare.

Once you think that an employee may be suffering from alcohol issues you must set up a meeting to raise issues and reduce their immediate pressures of work. Have an HR representative present at the meeting and remember that it may be beneficial to involve an employee’s family for support. Try to maintain a positive environment and be sympathetic towards the employee. Be prepared for the employee to deny their problem and be aggressive at the accusation. Focus on the issues you have noticed, take written records and talk about the actions that might help the employee.

The final step will be to make an action plan to address the problem. You must be knowledgeable about the professional help available and suggest Rehab Clinics Group provide treatment and set up an appropriate programme to meet the needs of the individual. Your guidance can help an employee to make good choices and feel supported in their recovery.

Professional Referrals at Rehab Clinics Group

In addition to the support you can offer internally we advise you to seek professional support from Rehab Clinics Group. We have experts that are specialists in treating alcohol problems. We can work alongside the employer and employee to provide a tailored alcohol rehabilitation programme for the affected employee. By meeting an employee, we can help them to accept their addiction and engage in treatment. Professional support is an indispensable tool in working with you and your employee to take the steps required to make a full recovery and return to good health.


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