Jonathan Raggett, managing director ofRed Carnation Hotels, warns hospitality employers to look out for signs of alcohol and drug abuse among staff as the pressure of the recession hits home.
The recession presents the greatest challenge most of us will have faced in our professional lives. And, as the battle to survive becomes ever more intense, the pressure is increasingly being passed on to our managers and staff.
Due to the long, unsocial hours that are a feature of work in hospitality, drug and alcohol abuse has long been a concern. A survey conducted by Caterer in December 2007 for the launch of its Be Aware campaign revealed some alarming statistics.
Some 40% of respondents had witnessed others taking drugs at work 13% admitted to personally taking drugs at work - the true number was surely much higher and more than 70% had witnessed other employees misusing drugs, alcohol or both, at work or immediately prior to work.
After reading the survey, we introduced a comprehensive alcohol and substance abuse policy, with the assistance of the Ark Foundation, part of Hospitality Action. It explains to employees that alcohol or substance abuse will not be tolerated, but offers a structure of support to those seeking help.
We launched with presentations that were attended by managers and staff at every level and, as a result, four employees admitted to serious alcohol or drug problems. With Ark's help, our support has enabled three of these experienced team members to continue working for us.
Alcohol and substance abuse awareness is now embedded in our training culture. Since its introduction we have seen our annual staff turnover fall from 40% to 35%, a significant cost saving in itself. We have also recorded improved morale among our teams, a reduction in absenteeism and a significant improvement in timekeeping.
This is a far from simple moral issue: we who increase revenue by encouraging our guests to indulge in alcohol can afford no hypocrisy. But without intervention, not only would we have lost people in whom we have invested time and training, there would also have been work performance issues - lost productivity, absenteeism, low morale - that might have harmed our reputation among our guests. And of course, there is the personal misery and despair felt by the individuals and their families.