Bookmark this page

Addressing Alcohol in the Workplace

Why focus on alcohol?

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used and abused drugs in Canada (Adlaf, Begin, & Sawka, 2005; Statistics Canada, 2013), and remains a leading risk factor for death, disease and disability (CPHA, 2011).

meeting at workplace

The costs of alcohol use to the Canadian economy are significant. More than $14.6 billion are spent annually (CPHA, 2011) including:

  • $7.1 billion related to lost productivity due to illness and premature death

Alcohol use has been shown to increase:

  • Injuries (within and outside the workplace)
  • Absenteeism in the workplace
  • Poor work performance
  • Illness and chronic health problems (e.g. cancer)

Why are workplaces a great place to address alcohol use?

Adults spend more time at work than anywhere else, 50 - 60% of their waking hours. This makes the workplace an ideal setting to provide information that addresses alcohol use.

  • While employers may have programs in place to address heavy drinking, research shows it’s also important to address low-moderate drinking.
  • Even less than one drink a day over time can increase a person’s risk of cancer.
  • Low-moderate drinking contributes to poor health outcomes, negatively impacts the work environment and affects a large number of people.

Employees who have good health are more likely to:

    • Have fewer injuries and illnesses
    • Be at work and perform well
    • Remain with an employer
    • Have reduced stress

    Why use a comprehensive approach to address alcohol in the workplace?

    happy employee

    Research shows that using a comprehensive approach to promoting health impacts the health of employees and results in positive behaviour changes. A well thought out plan including each of the following strategies is most effective:

    • Awareness Raising
    • Education and Skill Building
    • Environmental Support
    • Healthy Policies

    Health Promotion Strategy:
    Awareness Raising

    Health Promotion Strategy:
    Education/Skill Building

    • Display/promote messaging using bulletin boards
    • Display posters
    • Send email messages  
    • Promote pay stub/cheque insert messages
    • Distribute/promote alcohol messaging in newsletters
      • E.g. Healthy workplaces alcohol newsletter inserts
    • Offer employees resources on alcohol:
      • Brochures
      • Pamphlets
      • Fact Sheets
    • Work with a public health nurse to plan activities to increase employees’ knowledge.
    • Offer/promote educational and skill building opportunities from other community agencies (e.g. Pinewood Centre and Mental Health Services):
      • Presentations
      • In-services
      • Seminars
      • Provide and promote self-help material
        • Print
        • Online
      • Integrate alcohol education into broader health programs:
        • Stress management
        • Healthy eating
        • Physical activity
        • Smoking cessation programs

    Health Promotion Strategy:
    Environmental Support

    Health Promotion Strategy:
    Healthy Policies

    • Eliminate alcohol advertising within the workplace
    • Exclude alcohol from work related events/celebrations
    • Provide physical activity and healthy eating programs
    • Offer EAP programs to employees
    • Provide access/information to community supports for alcohol misuse
    • Provide access/information related to stress management
    • Investigate the process for developing an alcohol policy at your workplace
    • Review sample workplace alcohol policies
    • Develop a draft policy related to alcohol within the workplace
    • Develop a plan for approval of the draft policy
    • Promote the workplace alcohol policy:
      • Add it to a meeting agenda
      • Send it out by email
    • Ensure the policy is adhered to:
      • Have employees read and sign the policy
    • Develop a plan to review the policy annually and revise as needed

    Public Health Nurses are available to support Durham Region workplaces. Contact the Durham Health Connection Line at 1-800-841-2729 to learn more.


    Healthy Workplaces Toolkit

    Standard Drink Poster
    Healthy Workplaces
    Healthy Workplaces Newsletter
    Healthy Eating
    Physical Activity
    Workplace Stress

    References are available upon request.