Alcohol and drugs – a workplace issue

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2013 National LGBT Conference
2 August 2013

Conference notes that the hazardous and harmful use of alcohol and drugs is an issue for our diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which impacts on our working lives.

‘Part of the Picture’ – a five year research project (2009-2014) by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and University of Central Lancashire – has found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are significantly more likely to binge drink and experience substance dependency. The 2012 Open University ‘Bisexuality Report’ showed that bisexual men have been found to be more likely than gay and heterosexual men to use recreational drugs. And the 2012 ‘Trans Mental Health Study’ found that there may be significantly harmful levels of alcohol use amongst trans people that warrants further investigation.

These studies have identified significant barriers to LGBT people seeking information, advice or help from mainstream services.

Hazardous and harmful drug and alcohol use is a workplace issue because it can lead to significant health problems for the individual and because workers under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a hazard to themselves and others, impairing their performance and possibly leading them to taking risks or putting others at risk.

It is also a workplace issue because alcohol and drug dependency can follow stress at work, prejudice, harassment and bullying. Workers may also become reliant on painkillers because of musculoskeletal problems caused by work. Further, some workplaces have a culture of heavy drinking.

Conference welcomes UNISON’s health and safety information sheet on drug and alcohol abuse, which includes advice on negotiating a workplace policy, setting out key elements of such a policy.

Conference notes that unions have negotiated good workplace policies on drug and alcohol abuse with some employers, which aim to protect workers and encourage people to seek help, providing practical assistance. However, other employers fail to provide any appropriate support, sacking workers rather than assisting them.

Conference calls on the National LGBT Committee to seek updated UNISON bargaining advice on alcohol and drugs in the workplace, including the impact on LGBT workers and the importance of employers recognising the need for appropriate support services, and to promote this within our group.

Conference calls on regional and branch LGBT groups and the national LGBT caucuses to:

1. Raise awareness of the issue within our community;

2. Encourage the negotiation of good workplace policies using UNISON’s bargaining advice;

3. Publicise and promote best practice, including submitting good agreements to UNISON’s bargaining support database.