One-in-five Brits would expect to be sacked if they admitted to an alcohol or drug addiction

Employment & Skills | Surveys

A new report, released by addiction help and support service Port of Call, reveals that one-in-five (22%) people in the UK believe their employer would terminate their contract if they admitted to a drug or alcohol problem.

In the “Attitudes to Addiction report”, which was created to open up a public conversation about addiction issues and how others can support those affected; 19% of men said they thought they would be handed their P45 if they revealed they had an addiction to drugs or alcohol, compared to 26% of women.

It appears that this perception is also putting people off seeking help – 36% of those surveyed said they would not get professional help for fear it would hinder future job prospects.

Recent data has shown that 1.3% of the adult population are alcohol dependent, if this is accurate it would mean a significant amount of people would be dismissed from their current roles.

So, what are the rules around this issue? Interestingly, businesses reserve the right to set their own policies and guidelines. However, almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed said they didn’t know what their employer’s rules were or how they would react.

The survey also revealed:

  • 16-24 year-olds were the least optimistic when it came to suggesting what their employer would do if they admitted to an addiction – 31% would expect the boot
  • 55+ were most likely to keep their addiction support a secret (14%)
  • Almost half (49%) of people aged 55+ were the least worried about an addiction impacting future job prospects
  • 24% of 16-24 year-olds thought their employers would put them on a final warning if they admitted to suffering from an addiction

Port of Call founder Martin Preston commented on the report findings:  “Most people who call us are in full-time employment and don’t want their employer to know they have an addiction problem, often for fear of losing their job.  Addiction is a shame-based illness and people can have a fear of being ‘found out’.

“We also take calls from employers who are trying to help a colleague, and often, even those with large HR and people teams are unclear about what the firm’s stance really is.

“Most organisations have a zero- tolerance policy around alcohol and drug use, which they require for health and safety, yet rarely have awareness of, or access to, specialist addiction treatment services.

“Some firms, thankfully, are more progressive and we’re retained by a number of larger employers who genuinely want to help their people. If you’re employing more than ten people, addiction is an issue that you’re almost certain to encounter.”

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