Many New Zealanders use alcohol and other drugs, so there's a chance you will work with someone who does so in a way that impacts their ability to do their job.
If someone is impaired in the workplace, they could put themselves or others at risk. Impairment can occur due to lack of sleep, stress, relationship breakdowns, external stress or pressures, prescription medication, or alcohol and other drug use. Health and Safety legislation requires employers to ensure a safe working environment for all employees, and part of that is mitigating the risk of impairment. In safety-critical worksites, employers are legally allowed to drug test their employees because the risk of serious injury or death is high.
There are many things organisations can do to support their staff, without alcohol and other drugs getting in the way.
Employee Assistance Programmes and other health and social services can help people identify what is happening and come up with a plan. Building positive relationships in advance, and clearly communicating your processes, will enable quicker and easier access to these programmes when they are needed.
Different situations require flexibility. Impaired performance can have serious consequences in some roles where safety and fast reaction times are paramount. However, be clear about the actual impact of drug and alcohol use on work performance, because the fact that someone has used alcohol or other drugs at some point does not necessarily mean they are currently impaired, or that they have an addictive pattern of use.
Employees perform well when they feel supported and trusted. This could involve:
Clear and supportive conversations early in the piece can help to engage employees and prevent a difficult situation from getting worse. Support your line managers to recognise issues before they become a problem, and help or train them to know how to have clear and supportive conversations with their teams.
Recruitment, orientation, and training take time and resources - so it makes sense to work with existing employees to support them. Policies can be written in a way that promotes early identification of issues and flexible responses that are appropriate for the situation, while prioritising keeping your staff members employed.
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