Addressing Alcoholism in the Workplace

Special guest blog from John Gillen, Director, Rehab Clinics Group.

What can you do if you suspect that there is an alcohol problem in your workplace? You may have noticed an employee engaging in subtle consumption of alcohol at work or have become aware of some classic signs of alcoholism. Being an employer, you should be concerned about the effect that this could have on your workplace. Responding in the right way is a complex challenge due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

This is not an easy situation to resolve because the person with the problem may be in denial. They may be embarrassed and see your input as unfair and unreasonable. It is, however, your duty, as the employer, to protect your workplace and employees from any negative effects caused as a result of an alcohol problem. It is important to prioritise a course of action that will solve the issue rather than protect the embarrassment of the employee with the problem.

Having first ensured everybody’s safety then you can make time to exercise your duty of care towards your affected employee and plan a strategy that can help them overcome their problems. Whilst it may be one of the more challenging jobs that you will undertake as an employer, it may also be very rewarding.

The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?

It is vital to understand the terms that are used before confronting alcohol issues in the workplace. The strategies are different for dealing with employees who are abusing alcohol and employees who are actually alcoholics.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abusers are physically reliant on alcohol. Whilst this is a problem in itself, it can also indicate that they may be at risk of developing alcoholism. Getting an employee to accept that there is a problem is the first hurdle. Fortunately, it may be an option for them to change their behaviour by using will power alone. However, the employee may be in denial and be embarrassed. Using a positive and compassionate approach may help the employee to open up and get over their pride and fear.


An employee who is an alcoholic will have a psychological dependence as well as a physical one. It presents a far more complex issue and is likely to have a greater impact on performance in the workplace. In addition, it may also negatively affect the relationships between other employees and even the reputation of your company. The end result can have an impact on the whole company’s culture.

It is possible to deal with alcohol abuse internally if the employee is willing to change their behaviour and the employer is able to assist the employee in their efforts. In contrast, alcoholism, due to the potential seriousness and the risk to your business, will require external intervention and needs the full cooperation of the affected employee.

The Impact of Alcoholism in The Workplace

There are many issues that could arise from alcoholism in the workplace.

  • There could be mental and physical health issues for the affected employee.
  • It is likely that the employee’s performance will be impacted and reduced. This could include issues with time management and could affect the quality of work completed. It may be necessary to reduce the workload of the individual which will impact colleagues and increase their workload.
  • Alcoholism can affect the employee’s personality and cause negative relationships with colleagues, therefore, creating interpersonal issues and resentment.
  • Increased absences may increase the pressure and workload on colleagues.
  • Health and safety issues can be very serious resulting in an increase in accidents and injuries. This does not only affect the employee suffering from alcoholism but can also impact other members of staff who may be injured as a result of the employee’s negligence or carelessness.

Addressing Alcoholism in The Workplace Effectively

It is vital that employers seek to solve these issues as quickly as possible, even if it is challenging. It is important to plan how to deal with the problem. Employers must not be judgemental and refuse support to their employee. You do not wish other staff to see you as uncaring or lacking in concern for the welfare of your staff. It is therefore important to take a supportive and positive attitude.

It is essential for all workplaces to have a written policy for dealing with alcohol problems which should be written with support from the HR department. The policy should be supportive and take into account the mental health issues that may also be apparent. The policy should be concise and readily available for all staff to see. As soon as you suspect that an employee is suffering from alcohol abuse or alcoholism then make a time to discuss the issue with the employee and take steps to reduce their pressures at work. If it is possible it may help to involve the employee’s family to allow an intervention to take place.

You will need to prepare for the employee to be in denial and be unreceptive. You must maintain a positive attitude and take time to make the employee realise the seriousness of the situation so you can both find a way to take positive action. If you predict that an employee may be aggressive or hostile, then it may help to have an HR manager present in the meeting.

The next step will be to make a plan to tackle the problem, suggesting rehab clinics while still continuing support at work. During rehab treatment, you should continue to offer support as well as during the recovery phase.

Professional Referrals at Rehab Clinics Group

We advise you to refer the employee to Rehab Clinics Group especially if the employee is in denial and has a negative attitude towards their problem. Their alcohol rehab clinic has experts, who are specialists in the field of tackling alcoholism, to consult with the employee directly.

Even if the employee refuses to engage initially, it is recommended to continue to explain the benefits of seeking expert advice from the Rehab Clinics Group so they can take part in an alcohol rehab programme. Seeking professional support is an essential tool in the recovery of the employee and getting them back to better health.