Hangovers due to alcohol and drug use cost businesses $3 billion a year in absenteeism and account for 11.5 million “sick” days according to research published today by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) at Flinders University.
This is an increase on $1.2 billion in alcohol-related absenteeism recorded for 2001.
Researchers at the NCETA looked at data from the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which asked 12,500 people in the workforce about their alcohol and drug use and how often they had taken a day off work because of them.
Most of those surveyed drank alcohol at low-risk levels (56.1%), 26.6% at risky levels, 9.3% at high-risk levels and 8% abstained.
Most had never used any illicit drug (49.5%) or had not used within the past year (34.9%).
A total of 7.3% of those surveyed used drugs yearly, 2.9% did so monthly, and 5.4% did so weekly.
Survey participants self-reported missing a total of 1,688,161 days due to alcohol and 854,497 days due to drug use.
The riskier their drug and alcohol use the more sickies they took.
Professor Ann Roche told SmartCompany the results demonstrate the high costs associated with alcohol and drug related absenteeism in Australia.
“These are all preventable costs, so in terms of its impost and business and the economy that is substantial,” she says.
Roche says while blame is often placed on the worker themselves the research shows there are some industry and occupational types that have workplace environments conducive to alcohol and drug use.
How to reduce drug and alcohol sickies in your business
Roche’s tips for business owners to reduce alcohol and drug sickies include:
- Put in place an alcohol and drugs policy. Roche says business owners should overhaul their “top down” policies to identify appropriate norms in terms of alcohol and drug use and make it clear what the policy position is in terms of alcohol and drug use.
- Increase supervision. Problems often occur with employees working in a regional, rural or remote area with low levels of supervision.
- Make free water and soft drinks available. “In an environment that is hot and dusty people often want to quench their thirst and often the main place to do that is the pub,” Roche says. “Many alcohol problems are mitigated by making available free water and soft drinks.”
- Abolish workplace bars that offer alcohol at reduced prices.
- Be aware of increased risk of alcohol and drug related issues in environments that operate at irregular hours like hospitality industry and offshore fishing and where staff work long hours and under pressure.