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October 3, 2011

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New support for SMEs to tackle drug and alcohol abuse

A European initiative, which aims to provide guidance for small businesses on how to deal with employees with drug or alcohol problems, has launched an electronic learning package and training course to help managers tackle the issue.

The Maximising Employee Potential by Minimising the Impact of Substances (MEPMIS) Project is being funded by the Leonardo Foundation, which is part of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. It brought together seven European partners including a university, a research agency, three consultancies, a web design firm, and an IT company. The partners were based in the UK, Ireland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.

The project features a dedicated website, which has an electronic learning package and a face-to-face training course that is dedicated to reducing absenteeism and under-performance caused by workers’ alcohol, or drug use.
Research by Alcohol Concern revealed that between 11 and 17 million working days are lost in Britain each year because of excessive drinking, and 10 per cent of a typical workforce is said to have an alcohol, or drug problem.

The e-learning and face-to-face training resources are modular and include sections on: examining the best corporate approach to tackling drug and alcohol use; legal principles that underpin any action, including health and safety law, human rights legislation and data protection; managerial knowledge, skills and competencies, which include spotting signs and symptoms, and discipline and support; testing; substances of concern and how they affect behaviour and performance; and putting theory into practice.

Project leader John Griffiths, of work2health Ltd, said: “We spoke to managers and occupational health and safety professionals in each country and asked them what they perceived as their main challenges in this area, and what they felt they needed in terms of information and support. It is one of the key personnel issues they feel least equipped to deal with.

“They are aware that this problem, and associated issues such as testing, can be a legal and social minefield and they want to know what actions are open to them, what’s expected of them, and what the sensitivities are.”
He added: “This is a complex issue; the problem cannot be ignored but employers who think they can simply dismiss workers, or force them to undergo tests without developing and implementing proper policies, procedures and training are likely to run into trouble.

“One of the main aims is to build skills; many companies do not possess the tools to enable their managers to deal with substance use at a corporate level. That’s the value of this new resource.”

Full details of the project can be found at

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