Alcoholism in Workplace: Employee’s Rights and Employer’s Responsibilities

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In today’s busy modern world, you may use alcohol to relax and unwind after an entire week’s work. While some may drink to celebrate, some resort to it as a result of addiction. Addicted people cause alcohol abuse problems, both at home and at the workplace. Alcoholism in workplace is a growing concern. What is your organization doing towards this?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “17.6 million people suffer from some kind of alcohol abuse or dependence.” In simple words, that’s 1 in every 12 adults. 

The same council reports, ”workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences.”

People involved in binge drinking problems can cause severe disturbances to people, workplace, and their own families. It is one thing to prohibit alcohol at work, but there is more you can do as an organization. 

This is one reason alcoholism is also seen as a disability. If an organization can intervene in employee’s alcohol abuse and offer support, they can help cure this disability.

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Factors that can influence alcoholism in workplace

Alcohol abuse poses substantial risks to employers and their staff, but certain situations may directly or indirectly contribute to its promotion. Here’s a highlight of those instances and what organizations can do to control them.

Long working hours or demanding workloads – If your employees are extending their working hours or working during the weekends, it can disturb their work-life balance. Work stress and alcohol use has always gone hand-in-hand. 

When stressed because of the job, employees drink to overcome tiredness or a bad day at work.

It is understandable to push your employee’s professional limits, but you must know when it starts taking an emotional toll on them.

Important: HR leaders must be watchful of supervisors and team leader’s behavior towards their team members. Managers having a negative attitude can cause many people to lose control and take drinking as a habit.

Events or parties permitting alcohol – Having company-wide events where there’s no limit to serving alcohol gives off the idea that drinking is acceptable. While doing this once a year may cause almost no harm, a higher frequency of such occasions can nurse the attitude of drinking among employees. 

Companies that constantly host launch parties and events because of a wide product line are the ones that can get affected here the most.

What you can do here is limit alcohol servings during such occasions. The best way is to replace it with non-alcoholic beverages such as zero-alcohol mocktails and beers. You can simply switch to aerated drinks too.

What are an alcoholic employee’s rights 

Employees with alcoholic addiction are seen as disabled, according to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. law, therefore, protects alcoholic employees against all kinds of workplace discrimination and ensures that such professionals are treated equal to a regular employee.

Employments rights of alcoholics are many, including:

Right to Confidentiality – “Employee or job applicant has the right to confidentiality about her/his alcoholic condition.”

Right to Treatment – “Employee is eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave if she/he wants to pursue treatment.”

Right to Reasonable Accommodation – “Employee can request for accommodation, which may include specialized equipment or shift in work hours.” 

Employers’ responsibilities towards handling alcoholism in workplace

Addressing alcohol abuse can be an enormous challenge for HR managers. However, where there is education, support, and proper mentoring, anything can be achieved. 

Harbor a safe, effective workplace culture that also aims at managing alcohol-related issues. Some workplace responses that will prevent alcoholism in workplace could be:

Alcohol testing at workplace: Install alcohol testing station that prevents employees having intoxication or hangover from participating in work-related activities

Alcohol abuse awareness activity: Create alcohol abuse awareness programs that showcases the negative effects of alcohol abuse.

Employee mental health policy: Have strict policies that ensure employees are not stressed at the workplace and have a great work-life balance.

Education and training programs: Consistently invest in seminars and workshops that helps build a sense of self-respect and personal responsibility in alcoholics.

Access to support, treatment, and counselling sessions: Offer every support one needs to cure this alcohol-related disability.

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