Alcohol abuse not only creates problems of workplace behavior, but also costs employers serious money.

According to the George Washington University (GWU) Medical Center, heavy drinkers — those who take five or more drinks five or more times a month — are twice as likely to play hooky as other workers, and half again as likely to miss work due to injury.

Moreover, up to 20% of employees say the alcohol problems of co-workers cause them to fear injury, work harder, redo work or cover for the drinker. And it’s well documented that alcohol abusers have higher health-care costs.

Employers who are serious about controlling alcohol-related costs can consider six action steps, GWU says:

  • Provide health insurance that offers alcohol services like rehab and psychological counseling.
  • Promulgate alcohol policies that focus on treatment rather than punishment. (Discipline does have to be a part of the picture.)
  • Run regular health education programs that illustrate the risks of excessive drinking.
  • Promote confidential screening. Frequently employees don’t know their drinking has reached a risky level. Employers can offer screening at health fairs, or encourage people to be screened by their own doctors.
  • Offer/expand Employee Assistance Programs. These may include such elements as screening and counseling, Web-based information, referrals to treatment, recovery support, and supervisor training to spot productivity problems.
  • Manage time away. Employers can maintain contact with employees off work for rehab or other treatment, and ease their return with accommodations like flexible scheduling.


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