Some good reasons to have an Alcohol and the Workplace Policy, and a useful tool to help you develop one

IMAGE: PAUL VASARHELYI / SHUTTERSTOCK

IMAGE: PAUL VASARHELYI / SHUTTERSTOCK

The misuse of alcohol contributes to significant health, social and economic costs for workplaces.

There are significant and measurable costs attributable to alcohol misuse, including reduced productivity, safety risks and workplace relations issues -- as well as absenteeism and 'presenteeism' (attending work while unfit).

A 2012 study by VicHealth estimated the cost of lost productivity due to alcohol misuse at $3.5 billion every year.

As well as dealing with the financial impact of harmful alcohol use, employers have legal and ethical obligations to prevent and manage alcohol-related harm and issues.

A good policy on Alcohol and the Workplace -- provided it is effectively introduced and reinforced by management -- can go a long way to dealing effectively with this issue.

As with all HR policies, it is not sufficient to have a good document that does not effectively engage employees.

A good consultative process at the design and implementation stages, together with ongoing management and evaluation, is necessary to make sure that the policy works.

Western Australia's Drug and Alcohol Office has developed a practical and effective toolkit for employers as part of its "Alcohol - Think Again" campaign, which aims to minimise the harm of alcohol misuse for individuals and the broader community.

The toolkit is an interactive guide to developing a workplace fitness for work alcohol policy, which helps users navigate the 3 phases of developing a successful policy - Design, Implementation, Management & Evaluation.

The interactive guide provides clear advice and supporting background material to guide the user through the key steps of:

  • identifying a suitable policy framework and support structures;
  • gathering information about alcohol-related risks, harms and issues in the workplace through a workplace risk and needs assessment; and
  • consulting with key stakeholders in the workplace.

This free tool provides a sound approach to developing an effective policy to manage the potential impact of alcohol in the workplace, and is suitable for small businesses and larger firms.

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