What is an Alcohol Aware Employer?


In times of economic and financial uncertainty for many employees, it’s not surprising that levels of stress and anxiety are rising and that for some employees alcohol use will feature as a way to de-stress and cope with emotional and financial  difficulties.

While one in four employees will drink in ways that harm their health, very few employers realise they can actually play a big part in helping to reducing this risk, reduce stress and at the same time improve productivity.

There are currently 10 million working people in the UK drinking above the NHS lower risk guidelines (14 units per week). This means their level of drinking increases the risk of adverse physical health and mental wellbeing – drinking levels are also likely to increase if levels of stress and anxiety go up.

As drinking levels can go up incrementally, research shows that many drinkers who drink above the guidelines do not realise the impact this has on their health - and yet a significant proportion would cut down if they were given appropriate information and advice. This is a win-win for businesses and employees. Employers who encourage employees to check their drinking levels gain in wellbeing and productivity levels enormously.

The problem is few employers use all the tools in the toolbox to reduce alcohol harm across their workforce. While around half of employers do have an alcohol policy, only a few review this regularly and communicate it well to employees.

Many of the large employers will have EAP or occupational health support available for anyone concerned about their drinking, however the level of health promotion to provide awareness is often quite limited.

Some employers link to alcohol awareness campaigns once or even twice a year, but few encourage employees to actually check how much they drink in line with evidence that shows this is effective.

Finally, very few employers train their managers to spot the signs of alcohol issues among employees early on and to have the skills to deal with these effectively and appropriately.

When you consider all this in the round it means that very few employers have reached the excellence level in the Workplace Wellbeing Charter – although if you have we’d love to hear from you.

This is why we’re calling on all employers to become Alcohol Aware Employers, which simply means doing all you can to raise alcohol awareness and reduce the risk of alcohol harm – both to employees and to your business or organisation. In line with the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, our Alcohol Aware Employer campaign is asking all employers to ensure:

  • There is a clear, up to date alcohol policy, well communicated to all employees

  • Alcohol awareness is regularly promoted among all employees

  • Managers are supported and trained to spot alcohol problems early and know how to deal with them effectively

  • Employees with alcohol problems are encouraged to seek advice and support

To help you on your way we’ve developed some free resources:

Our Online Diagnostic test helps you find out if you’re an Alcohol Aware Employer – we’ll provide you with personalised feedback on how you’re doing. We recognise every employer is on a journey, so the diagnostic test lets you see how far you’ve travelled.

We have an Alcohol Policy Checklist so you can see what should be in your alcohol at work policy.

We’ve updated and refreshed our Alcohol and Workplace Wellbeing FAQs – with the latest academic research on how to promote wellbeing through alcohol awareness.

Finally, check out our Infographic on alcohol and workplace health.

We’re hopeful that our campaign will get more employers to do all they can to improve health and wellbeing by promoting alcohol awareness. Please join us and spread the word.

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Posted by Don Shenker on 2nd March 2017