What small business owners need to know about alcohol in the workplace
Few things bring business to a halt more effectively than an employee under the influence - drugs, alcohol, and work aren’t a healthy workplace cocktail!
In your small business, you must keep things clean from the very start and put in place set procedures and best practice to avoid incidents.
No business owner wants to see their company vehicle on the side of the road with a uniformed employee receiving a Driving-Under-the-Influence notice. Nor an overturned forklift in the warehouse, with dazed driver and a bill for damages to boot. And few would want to manage the worst case scenario - injury or death caused by an employee under the influence - with no best practice in place to deal with the crisis effectively. It’s scary stuff for any small business owner, especially one who is unprepared.
If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be interested and not a little alarmed at the statistics released in 2016 by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, which tell us that around one in two-hundred people in this country seeking treatment for alcohol and drug use in 2014–15.
Some of those people work and it’s possible they work for you or might do so at some point. Let’s not be naïve. This is clearly an issue that touches workplace culture both directly and indirectly.
The Australian Drug Foundation impact reports that alcohol and drugs cost Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity, with 2.5 million days lost annually. The cost to co-workers is just as significant. One in ten workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. That might include reduced capacity in doing their job, causing an accident or near miss. There can be an expectation that colleagues will cover for the culprit, even extending their own hours of work to do so.
Whatever the size of an organisation, all employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and other drug-related issues in the workplace. Reasonable, practical steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as contractors or clients.
However, what these standards do is work towards minimising the worst that can happen. Having a policy in place provides any small business owner with the correct pro-active measures to manage a crisis swiftly and safely. This not only helps avoid any costly and stressful outcomes but it could just save lives too.
Don’t run the risk of inaction. The law counts on you to be compliant right from the start and so do your staff. Peace of mind is knowing you are meeting your legal obligations - and have staff who know how to look after each other when it really counts.