Alcohol and drug abuse continues to plague the hospitality sector in the UK, exclusive research has revealed.
In a Caterer online poll of nearly 300 hospitality professionals, 89% felt alcohol and drug misuse was a problem in the industry, with 39% of those believing it was "widespread". The overwhelming majority (85%) felt that alcohol and drug misuse was having a negative impact on the image of the industry.
More than seven in 10 of the respondents said they had witnessed other employees misusing drugs or alcohol (or both) at work or immediately before work. The most popular drug was cannabis, but a worrying 65% of the respondents who had seen employees using drugs had witnessed cocaine being taken.
Just 20% of the hospitality professionals said their employer undertook training with managers on how to manage alcohol and drug misuse, with 70% confirming that employees who were found to be abusing drink or drugs were dismissed.
This position was criticised by Alcohol Concern. A spokesman said: "We view alcohol policies as fundamental to tackling alcohol-related problems at work. Misuse should be viewed as a health issue, rather than an automatic cause for censure or dismissal."
The spokesman said hospitality professionals were particularly prone to misuse, because of the long hours, shift work and job insecurity. "Additionally, a self-reinforcing culture of heavy drinking among staff in various properties may serve to make matters worse," he added.
This view was reinforced by many of the comments made by respondents. One said: "The industry supports heavy drinking and turns a blind eye to drug-taking. It is a rare chef who doesn't enjoy a ‘spliff' and many take cocaine just to cope with the ridiculous hours and pressure, in London at least."
British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton, who is also chairman of Hospitality Action and the Ark Foundation, said: "It's the responsibility of every good employer to look for signs of drug and alcohol abuse and to take steps to counter it. We can't just ignore it."
A spokesman for charity DrugScope said: "Chefs and other kitchen staff are under intense pressure and this may be an issue to be addressed by managements. Hotel staff also operate in a high pressure work environment.
"With that in mind, it is worrying that 70% of employers would sack someone straight away if found to be misusing drink or drugs, and that not even half would refer an employee for counselling.
"Having a clear drug and alcohol policy in place, which includes the option to refer someone to counselling where appropriate, should be standard practice across British industry."
Survey in numbers
- 85% believe drug and alcohol misuse is having a negative impact on the image of the industry.
- 40% have witnessed others taking drugs at work (97% cannabis, 65% cocaine, 32% ecstasy).
- 13% have personally taken drugs at work (80% cannabis, 57% cocaine, 3% ecstasy).
Drug addiction: Picking up the pieces >>By Daniel Thomas
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