10 Oct 2012

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said that employers must recognise stressful, unsocial, monotonous or highly-pressurised work environments can contribute to drug or alcohol misuse by employees.

Congress Legislation & Legal Affairs Officer - Esther Lynch - encouraged employers "to sit down with workers and their unions to identify if a person's job, or the way in which work is organised might be contributing to alcohol or drug misuse."

She said Congress has published new guidelines for negotiating fair and legal drug and alcohol policies in the workplace.*

Ms Lynch was speaking at the 30th Annual EAP Institute Conference of health and safety and employee assistance practitioners, in Dublin.

"Employers need to recognise that working conditions - stress, excessive work pressure, unsocial hours or monotony - may be a factor in someone starting to drink more or abuse drugs," My Lynch said.

"This also applies in jobs where there is ready access to alcohol or where drinking and entertaining is a normal part of doing business."

She warned that disciplinary action should be "a last resort," explaining that tribunals and courts may find a dismissal unfair "if an employer has made no attempt to help an employee with a problem where work factors are a clear contributory factor.

"What we need instead is a comprehensive workplace policy that offers support, not punishment and our guide aims to help trade unions to see that effective policies are pursued at work, to prevent substance abuse and help those who may have become dependent on alcohol or drugs," she said.