NCETA has revealed that alcohol and drug-related absenteeism has increased sharply, and most greatly affects businesses such as hospitality.

The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), released its Alcohol and Drug-Related Absenteeism paper last week, based on data from over 12,000 people surveyed in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) (2013, 2014, 2015).

It found that the cost to small businesses of absenteeism has increased from $1.2bn in 2001, to more than $3bn. The figures are based on the direct cost of sick leave, and do not take into account lost productivity.

A cost of $267 for a ‘sick day’ is multiplied by a combination of self-reported absenteeism, and an estimate of the mean difference in absence from work between those who used alcohol or drugs compared to abstainers.

Participants admitted to missing 1.69 million days due to alcohol, and 850,000 days due to drug use. Incidence is higher in industries with irregular hours and high pressure, such as hospitality.

Lead author of the report, NCETA director Professor Ann Roche, had suggestions for small businesses to help combat the cost and problem of alcohol and other drugs (AOD).

“I would recommend that organisations develop and implement a formal AOD policy, provide education and training regarding AOD use, and provide access to counselling and treatment.

“The good news is that these kinds of strategies have been shown to be highly effective in addressing this kind of absenteeism behaviour.”

Roche says that people are often not aware that alcohol can have delayed consequences for their health, and subsequent missing of work.

“Often people will have a lot to drink on Friday or Saturday and then have diarrhoea or gastro type symptoms on a Monday morning that are a direct result of the alcohol, but they don’t connect these with their drinking.”

Recommendations for addressing the problem include:

  • Make free water or soft drinks available to staff
  • Officially put in place an alcohol and drugs policy for the workplace that applies to all
  • Increase supervision and/or accountability of individuals to discourage inappropriate consumption
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