What should you do if you suspect an employee has a drinking problem?

Some may think it isn’t their problem – what goes on outside work is nothing to do with them and fail to acknowledge the duty of care they owe to their workers to provide a safe place and system of work.

It is more common a problem than you might think as can be seen in the sorry story of Detective Constable Montgomery who arrived at 10am for  her first day in a new role but within minutes asked for annual leave and at left at 11am mistakenly believing it was the end of her shift.

Alcohol Concern estimates that there are 595,131 dependent drinkers in England, and with alcohol playing a part in more than 60 medical conditions, it is important that managers and HR practitioners are aware of it.

If you are worried an employee may have a drinking problem, there are some steps you can take to help.

Spot the problem

It can be very difficult to tell when someone’s issues are related to alcohol, but you might be able to notice some clues. Does the person suddenly appear anxious or depressed? They might neglect their appearance, start arriving at work late, or even smell of alcohol.

Have the conversation

Stick to the facts – tell your employee what you’ve noticed and let them tell you in their own words what the issue is. For example, you may want to plainly say you’ve noticed your employee seems hungover in the mornings, or their personality seems to have changed. Reassure them that you’re not attacking them, but you want to help them before the issue causes problems.

Provide support

Your employee might need time to receive treatment. See what you can reasonably accommodate.

You will want to take immediate measures if their job involves driving or operating machinery.