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Majority of employers want to offer addiction support

A majority (54%) of employers would like to offer support gambling, alcohol, or drug addiction, yet just 4% do.

According to research from Love Your Employees seen exclusively by HR magazine, employers generally want to offer more proactive wellbeing support, including pre-emptive testing of blood pressure and cholesterol (60%) and cancer screening (49%).

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Eliott Smith, co-founder of Love Your Employees, said the survey showed that employers are increasingly willing to help employees in traditionally contentious areas.

He said: “Addiction is often filed in the ‘too difficult’ pile.

“It will need sensitivity, expertise, and to a certain extent braveness to tackle what is a common problem area.”

One difficulty with addiction issues, according to Mike Trace, CEO of addiction support charity The Forward Trust, is that it can affect anyone.

Trace told HR magazine: "Sometimes the person that you might least expect – including a hard-working, loyal employee – is struggling with addiction. But with the right support, people in active addiction can, and often do, find recovery.

"We know this first hand. Approximately one third of Forward’s workforce have lived experience of either addiction or the criminal justice system. Their experiences give them a unique insight into the challenges our clients face on the road to recovery."

To support its employees, The Forward Trust has implemented a comprehensive benefits scheme, including a monthly therapy allowance, access to private healthcare, and a confidential helpline through its employee assistance programme.

Trace said: "With the right support, anyone can turn their lives around and find recovery. And when they do, they have the potential to be a valuable asset for any organisation."

In September 2021, Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency) estimated around 246,000 people were likely to have some form of gambling addiction, and classified a further 2.2 million people as problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.

NHS statistics also showed there were around 600,000 alcohol-dependent people in the UK in 2019, of whom 82% were not accessing treatment.

Smith added: “Funding in this area has been decimated over the last 10-12 years. For many, there is nothing available where they live, and perhaps there are rewards to be had by offering this kind of support in the workplace. 

“Helping to move those with problems from chaotic functioning towards a higher level of wellbeing and performance is in both employee and employer interests.”

Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder of HR consultancy 10Eighty, said she believed companies should offer addiction support to employees who might need it. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of all their employees, and addiction is often shrouded in secrecy.

"When one employee’s addiction begins to impact on their performance, attendance or the health and safety of their colleagues, an employer needs to assess the risks and implement any [necessary] actions."

Love Your Employees' research is based on interviews with 300 UK HR decision-makers in the first quarter of 2022.