“Chucking a Sickie”: Identifying AOD-Related Absenteeism in the Workplace

August 2015

NCETA’s secondary analysis of the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) data highlights the large financial impact employee alcohol and drug use has on workplaces (see Publication Highlights for information regarding analysis undertaken). The analysis found:

  • over 1.6 million days of work were missed each year due to alcohol use
  • over 85,000 days of work were missed each year due to drug use per year
  • riskier and/or more frequent consumers of alcohol/drugs have more days of per year
  • lower risk and/or infrequent alcohol users contribute the most days lost per year as there are more of them
  • when combined with days absent due to injury and/or illness sustained because of alcohol and/or drug use, participants reported missing almost 11.5 million days per year
  • total AOD related excess absenteeism costs organisations over $3 billion dollars a year. 

The development and implementation of formal alcohol and other drug (AOD) policies have been demonstrated to have positive impacts on employee AOD use. Providing employees with education and training and access to counselling and treatment are important components of changing AOD-related attitudes and behaviour. Reflecting positive attitudes and behaviours in relation to AOD use needs to be promoted and reflected in all policies adopted at an organisational level. For example, it may not be beneficial to implement policies which focus on changing individual behaviours when the organisation ‘shouts’ after work drinks every Friday night. Effective workplace responses adopt comprehensive and integrated approaches by incorporating aspects of policy, treatment, and prevention at a systemic level. 

A number of different intervention strategies have been utilised by Australian workplaces to respond to AOD-related harms. Such strategies need to acknowledge the differing needs, resources, and environments of individual workplaces and focus on the physical and cultural workplace factors that may unwittingly promote problematic AOD use. NCETA is available to help organisations design, implement, and evaluate their workplace AOD policies and improve their industry competitiveness, workplace productivity, and employee health and wellbeing.