Over a third (35%) of employees know or suspect that their colleagues have a drug problem or take illegal substances either during or outside work, a new survey has found.

Over 60 % complained that mood swings, missed deadlines and calling-in sick are just some of the ways it’s affecting team performance.

The 1,000 strong study commissioned by employment law specialists, Crossland Employment Solicitors, also found that 20% of employees confirmed that they take, inject, or smoked illegal substances during the weekend and holidays. More than one in 10 (12.5%) said they take illegal substances every week, and over 45% agreed with their colleagues that it affects their performance in a negative way, such as making them feel down or depressed, tired at work or causes their change in mood. Others said they “felt sick” , “generally unwell” while another claimed “increased productivity.”

Nearly a quarter (23%) admitted they had done something illegal to fund their drug use either in or outside of work, with 12% saying this involved work stock or cash.

Almost half (46%) of respondents also confirmed that they were aware of the potential disciplinary action that could be taken against them for substance abuse and result in them losing their job, but another 35% were unsure of the exact grounds and consequences of any action – showing a wide gap in levels of knowledge among employees.

What employers said

We found cocaine in the men’s toilets, “I found out an employee was smoking cannabis in a status about it on social media” and “employees coming to work either high, or coming down” were just some of the comments from bosses on their experience of substance abuse in the workplace.

Cannabis joint

The survey also found a wide range of approaches in how employers respond to substance abuse at work. Forty-one per cent of employers said they have an official drug awareness guide detailing company policy and potential disciplinary action, nearly a quarter (23%) said they undertake random drug and alcohol testing on employees. Twenty-one per cent said they have a programme of training for managers or supervisors on recognising the signs of drug misuse, 14% said they allow people time off to get help or encourage them to seek help, while 11% said they just sack them.

Across different industry sectors, accountancy, banking and finance was highest with 23% of employees suspected or known to take illegal substances during or outside of work.  22 per cent in engineering and manufacturing and 16 per cent in business consulting and management. 

Beverley Sunderland, managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors said: “We were surprised by the number of people who know or suspect their colleagues have a drug problem and the multitude of ways they are having to cover for their colleagues’ performance, but we were totally shocked by how many respondents admitted doing something illegal to fund their drug use, whether inside or outside of work.”

She added: “In my experience, substance abuse in the workplace cuts across all industry sectors, ages and jobs – from the highest paid professions to employees on minimum wages. But regardless of the job, any employer should point out the dangers to anyone they know is affected and provide them with proper encouragement and support to seek help.”