Alcohol- and drug-related absenteeism: A costly problem

August 2015
Roche, A., Pidd, K., & Kostadinov, V. (2015). Alcohol- and drug-related absenteeism: A costly problem. Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health. DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12414.

NCETA has been at the forefront of examining the impact of employee alcohol and other drug use on workplaces for over a decade. This paper extends NCETA’s previous research about the costs associated with alcohol and other drug (AOD) related employee absenteeism.

Secondary data analysis of the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) was undertaken to examine (1) how many participants’ self-reported absence due to AOD use; and, (2) the mean difference in absence due to any illness/injury for AOD users compared to abstainers. Both these figures were multiplied by the average day’s wage in 2013 to estimate associated costs.

The analysis found that:

  • participants reported missing over 1.6 million days due to alcohol and over 85,000 days due to drug use per year
  • riskier and/or more frequent consumers of alcohol/drugs reported increased rates of absence; however, lower risk and/or infrequent users contribute to 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
  • AOD related absenteeism costs organisations over $3 billion dollars a year.

To reduce these exorbitant costs, industries and workplaces should implement evidence-based intervention and prevention strategies which promote healthy employee behaviour. NCETA is currently working with a variety of organisations to help them implement evidence-based alcohol and other drug workplace policies and improve their industry competitiveness, workplace productivity, and employee health and wellbeing. 

See "Chucking a Sickie": Identifying AOD-Related Absenteeism in the Workplace for more information about NCETA's research in this area.