Addressing Addiction in the Workplace
In South Africa it is often very difficult to find reliable statistics and data regarding addiction in the work place, but there has been a definite increase in substance abuse amongst the employed. The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has collected data, which shows that employers are referring more and more employees to treatment centres for substance abuse.
Addiction in the workplace has a significant effect on a business. Above average absenteeism, accidents and injuries, below standard work quality, poor performance, theft and other criminal activity are all a result of substance abuse and this has a direct effect on the cost to company.
The reality is that an individuals suffering with substance use disorder cost their employer financially. There is usually denial around the severity of the problem or guilt and shame that the individual is faced with as a result of the addiction. This makes it very difficult for the individual to ask for help.
In most cases an employee will not ask for help until it is too late. They resign from their position before they get into any serious trouble (avoiding consequences), or they are fired from their position as a direct result of their behaviour – which is linked to their addiction.
It is normal for people to worry about the stigma associated with addiction; potentially being overlooked for advancement, lack of knowledge and time off needed for inpatient treatment care, are often blocks to asking for help for those who are willing to address the problem. They are unsure as to where they stand with their company and what help is available to them.
The South African National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) and certain labour legislation have been put in place to allow employers to better manage those who are looking for help in the workplace.
The NDMP outlines:
- Intense campaigns highlighting education and information regarding substance abuse and the dangers
- Implementation of prevention programmes
- Implementing a public health care approach to substance use
- Increasing rehabilitation services
There is labour legislation in place in the form of several Acts, which outline the responsibility of the employer and the employee when dealing with substance abuse.
Due to the prevalence of addiction in the workplace, many employers have had to introduce policies and procedures to manage the issue. Part of these policies and procedures should include;
- Education and prevention programmes
- Prevention programmes
- Programmes to promote openness and acceptance of those effected
- Treatment programmes
Many of the larger companies in South Africa have implemented drug policies, they have Employee Assistance Programmes that offer support and guidance, but the effectiveness of these practices is unknown, due to lack of data.
It is important to understand what the drug policies and procedures are and what assistance your employer is able to provide. The effects of substance abuse are destructive, many people only ask for help when it’s too late. Today addiction is treated as a medical problem, its effects are widespread and there is more help available than people are aware of, employers are more empathetic towards substance use disorder.
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