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A Guide to Dealing with Alcoholism in the Workplace

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alcoholism in the workplace

Dealing with alcoholism in the workplace is a reality for many employers, and it’s prudent to be prepared. 

It can seriously affect employees, their families, and the company. Alcohol abuse can lead to decreased productivity, missed workdays, and even legal problems if workers drive under the influence while on the job.  

This guide aims to provide employers with a comprehensive overview of how best to deal with alcoholism in their place of business. 

By following these steps, employers will be able to ensure that all employees who may suffer from an alcohol addiction receive proper care and support while also taking necessary measures against any potential violations of company policies or regulations. 

How to Deal with Alcoholism in the Workplace?

Employers are ultimately responsible for creating a safe and supportive work environment for their staff. Therefore, they must have strategies to deal with alcoholism in the workplace. 

1) Promote a Supportive and Positive Workplace Culture

Organizational culture can impact the perception and attitude toward substance abuse.  

Workplace stressors play a part in an employee’s alcohol abuse. Therefore, employers who want to take a holistic approach to their employee’s health and well-being must build a culture that aligns with their ideology.  

Many aspects must be considered when building a positive and supportive workplace, such as the working hours. All workers must know how long they’ll have to work during the day, whether they will have to put in extended hours, and what their role demands to manage their expectations and stress levels. 

Another vital aspect is employees’ social wellbeing in the workplace. Workers want to feel like they belong and develop friendships with their colleagues. Companies can create more opportunities for developing relationships between the staff by organizing social events and team-building activities. 

Finally, building a supportive work environment should be a top priority.  

When employees with alcohol issues are supported, they will be encouraged to step forward and address their problems before any incidents occur. 

Organizations can offer many potential sources of support, including health coaching, employee assistance programs, health insurance plans, or access to counseling services. 

2) Develop a Policy

All employers must have a written substance abuse policy that is shared with their personnel. The policy must clearly outline the expectations regarding alcohol use.  

When developing their policy, organizations should consider the following: 

  • Legal requirements, such as applicable laws and regulations 
  • Characteristics of the workplace and the personnel 
  • The culture and values of the company 

Once the employer assesses the broader issues around culture and the work environment, the next step is to decide which elements to include in the policy. 

The policy must include rules on alcohol consumption and outline what behaviors are unacceptable regarding alcoholism in the workplace. These include rules such as whether alcohol consumption is completely banned or if there are exceptions, or how long employees should be sober before starting a shift. 

Another element that must be a part of the policy is the reporting process. Employees must know whom they can speak to if they want to raise concerns or disclose their problems. 

It is also a good practice to outline the support that is offered and how employees can access the resources.  

The employer’s approach to drug and alcohol testing is also  mandatory. 

Finally, workers must know what consequences they could face if they breach the rules, including the possibility of dismissal. Clarifying when the employer stops supporting the employee and moves to disciplinary actions is vital. 

3) Implementing the Policy

Ensuring that the policy is consistent with other organizational policies is crucial. Once developed, it should be presented to the board of directors, unions, and employee representatives to avoid a disconnect between management levels. 

Equally vital is to communicate the policy with the personnel, which will raise general awareness and interest in the issue and create an empathetic and positive approach to colleagues dealing with alcoholism in the workplace. 

alcoholism in the workplace

4) Provide Training

Usually, managers and employees are the first to face an alcoholism problem.  

Therefore, they must have the knowledge and the skills to handle the situation. However, according to CIPD’s Drug and Alcohol Misuse Survey, very few managers are trained to recognize signs of stress (38%), recognize symptoms of alcohol abuse (26%), or how to manage employees with such issues (32%).  

The purpose of training managers and workers in recognizing the signs and supporting employees with alcohol issues is not to make them experts in the field, but rather to raise awareness of the problems and thus build a supportive culture. 

Employers can provide broader health and well-being training or offer more specific options, such as developing communication skills or managing difficult situations.  

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How to Deal with an Employee Drinking at Work?

Deciding how to deal with an employee drinking at work can be difficult.  

However, since drinking on the job is typically seen as gross misconduct, employers should take immediate action. 

Hence, employers need to have a comprehensive strategy in place for dealing with alcoholism in general. This can help the employer deal with the situation and protect them from liability issues.  

Employers should review their existing substance use policies periodically to ensure they are up-to-date and adequately address any potential issues related to alcohol consumption at work. 

Depending on the severity of the situation, an employer can take several steps to deal with an employee’s drinking at work. Before any actions are taken, they must be sure they have a legitimate cause.  

Once confirmed, the first step is a one-on-one intervention with the employee in the spirit of a supportive culture. At the meeting, the employer should express their concerns about the employee’s situation and remind them of the alcohol use policy. 

Employers must communicate clearly what will happen if there are further instances of alcohol abuse and ensure that all personnel understand the consequences. 

The following possible action is sending the worker for testing if it is required by law or policy. The employer could refer their worker for a doctor’s evaluation if testing is not mandatory. 

If the test or the evaluation confirms the employee was drinking on the job, some employers offer a “last chance agreement” instead of termination. Under this agreement, workers must participate in an addiction treatment program, report their progress to the employer, and improve their job performance.  

If the problem continues, or the employee refuses to go to rehabilitation, the employer can take more formal disciplinary steps, such as suspension or termination. 

Supporting Employees with Alcohol Problems

Supporting employees with alcohol problems can go a long way in helping them deal with the issue. For an employer, there are many ways to provide assistance for workers coping with alcoholism. 

Employers should ensure they have appropriate resources available for those suffering from alcoholism, such as educational materials on responsible drinking practices, referrals to substance abuse treatment programs, and other forms of assistance, depending on the needs of each employee. 

These services can be provided through a third-party organization, but having them available within the company may make access easier for workers needing help. 

Employee assistance programs are a great resource for support.  

They can help employees receive counseling and assessment to assist them overcome their alcohol abuse, physical and mental health problems, or financial wellness. 

The services they offer are confidential and are provided by professional counselors. The EAP counselor meets with the employee, assesses or diagnoses the problem, and, if required, refers the worker to another resource or treatment program. 

Apart from EAPs, employers should ensure they provide flexible benefits packages. Apart from offering health insurance plans that cover medical events, employers can provide behavioral health benefits that cover alcohol and drug treatment. 

Finally, to support employees with alcohol problems, employers should also ensure that their workplace culture supports and accepts those struggling with addiction.  

This means creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their issues without fear of judgment or humiliation.  

Additionally, supervisors and managers must be understanding and empathetic when addressing concerns related to an employee’s alcohol use. 

This includes refraining from making assumptions about the person’s condition or behavior and avoiding language that could sound dismissive or condescending. 


Employers need to be proactive in addressing alcoholism in the workplace. 

By following the strategies in this guide, employers can create a healthier work environment that supports employee wellbeing while reducing risks related to alcohol use at work. 

Written by Marija Petrushevska | Content Writer at Shortlister
Written by Marija Petrushevska | Content Writer at Shortlister