Workers frown on substance abuse

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The Independent Online
WORKERS ARE increasingly unwilling to put up with colleagues who drink during working hours and far more likely to inform on them than they used to be, according to a new study.

Intolerance of "substance abuse" ranges from people who have serious drink and drugs problems to those who pop out to the pub at lunch time, says a survey conducted for the Institute of Personnel and Development.

"Ten years ago many people used to go out for a liquid lunch, but it is no longer as acceptable as it was," said Oonagh Ryden, a policy adviser at the institute.

Ms Ryden believes the growing tendency to tell management about colleagues' drinking or drug taking is based on anxiety over people's welfare and concern over the impact of such substances on work performance.

"People have become intolerant of colleagues suffering from hangovers whose ability to do their job is impaired. They get fed up covering up for them," she said.

Organisations are increasingly banning alcohol from their premises and insisting that none is consumed during key working hours, Ms Ryden said.

New management techniques are also more adept at exposing "under-performance". The productivity of hundreds of thousands of staff at call centres throughout Britain is monitored minute by minute.

The survey of 1,800 company personnel specialists found that some 46 per cent of companies had received reports of alcohol abuse by staff during the last year, compared with 35 per cent in 1996 - an increase of 11 per cent. Around 18 per cent of firms had received reports of illegal drug taking - an increase of 3 per cent.

Despite the trend, many companies had no policies on drugs or alcohol. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said their organisations had no alcohol policy and nearly half did not have a drugs policy.

Programmes on alcohol and drug awareness for staff were even rarer, according to the study. Only 17 per cent reported such an initiative towards alcohol and just 15 per cent towards drugs.

More than eight out of 10 personnel officers said that managers and supervisors in their companies were not trained to recognise substance abuse.

Ms Ryden said employers had a duty to maintain health and safety at work and could not afford to be complacent.

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