Can you test employees working from home for drug and alcohol abuse?

Drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace was an issue before lockdown. Research from the CIPD found that just over a quarter of employers had disciplined someone for drug abuse in the last two years.

Now, with the added stresses of the pandemic – including furlough, redundancy, working from home and in many cases greater levels of isolation – there is a tinderbox environment for individuals with drug or alcohol problems. More than one in four of those working from home because of lockdown who usually have a drink were imbibing more than usual, according to research by Drinkaware released in May. This rose to one in three among those 9.6 million on furlough.

But with no return to the office in sight – given the government’s recent U-turn and new guidance that staff should once again work from home where they can, potentially for the next six months.

Managers should be trained on what signs to look out for – such as being consistently late for morning calls or errors creeping in that are not usually there – and on how to respond.

Line managers are usually the first to notice any unusual behaviour, and they should also be having regular catch-ups to monitor workloads and levels of stress. Clear communication is key and asking questions about people’s wellbeing and how they’re coping is important to open up these conversations and give people the chance to talk about anything that’s worrying or concerning them

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