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HomeHuman ResourcesManaging PeopleDo we need to talk about it addiction in the workplace

Do we need to talk about it addiction in the workplace

Many employees are often reluctant to come forward and discuss an addiction problem in the workplace. The potential consequences for their professional career and reputation often putting them off seeking help from their employer. A new report into the attitudes towards addiction in the UK suggests people are even worried that opening up about the subject could have a negative impact on future job prospects (36%).

The research, carried out by support service Port of Call reveals that one in five believe their current employer would terminate their contract if their performance was suffering and they admitted to an addiction. A perception that must be tackled if more people are to open up about the disease.

Recent data* shows that 1.3% of the adult population are alcohol dependent, and if this is accurate, it would mean a significant amount of people would be dismissed from their current roles if they were right about the way in which employees would deal with their addiction.

The research also reveals 16-24 year-olds were the least optimistic when it came to employer reactions, as 31% would expect the sack if they admitted to substance abuse and 53% would be concerned to seek help for addiction for fear it could impact future job prospects. Could this generation be even more likely to keep their addiction problems a secret?

Protecting and supporting employees  is essential for the wellbeing of the individual, and there are many things employers can do to address addiction in the workplace. Worryingly, almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed said they didn’t know what their employer’s rules were or how they would react.

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.”

Port of Call’s report “Attitudes to Addiction in 2019” can be viewed here –

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