Testing times for NI economy

Unique partnership aims to tackle alcohol and substance misuse in the workplace


  • Alcohol and substance misuse costs NI economy £900m every year
  • 1 in 4 employees suffer poor mental health with the number of people being treated for workplace stress-related conditions increasing
  • Randox Testing Services, Addiction NI and Inspire Workplaces to inform employers how to first identify and then provide support to staff who turn to drugs and alcohol to cope


With alcohol misuse assessed to cost the Northern Irish economy £900 million annually, Randox Testing Services has launched an initiative dedicated to combating alcohol and substance misuse and its impact on the workplace. The summit, in partnership with Addiction NI and Inspire Workplaces, is the first of its kind in NI.

 Current figures suggest that the impact of alcohol alone costs Northern Ireland industry £258.2 million in terms of lost productivity, premature death among the workforce and unemployment. The full day event will arm employers with the support, knowledge and guidance they need to combat this growing problem and secure the safety and wellbeing of their staff.

Key speakers and representatives from each of the participating companies will provide detail on how each can contribute to workplace wellbeing, and will discuss potential collaborations with a range of workshops taking place in the afternoon.

One of the speakers is Michael Bailey, who started abusing alcohol and drugs because of stress at work. He wants to see positive changes that can help people in his position.

 “I started using alcohol to cope with the pressures of work and no-one looked twice so long as I was doing my job and bringing in sales. The first time the company brought up alcohol procedures was when I’d lost my driving licence and I was fired. That was the point when I lost everything – my marriage, my kids and my home. It’s taken four years to come back from the brink. We’ve got to end the stigma and enable people to ask for help. If employers want to make a positive change, they’ve got to have testing and support services in place.”

Dr Mark Piper, Toxicology Manager of Randox Testing Services, said it was a positive sign almost 200 employers across Northern Ireland were taking part.

Starting the conversation about drug and alcohol misuse is one of the most difficult things to do as an employer. However this unique partnership offers a path to recovery – from identifying someone with a problem to getting them the support they need to get better.

“There are numerous benefits for employers too – helping skilled staff recover from a problem means they remain a valuable member of the workforce, and the money spent on recruiting and training that person is not lost.”

Thelma Abernethy, Director  of Addiction NI, said;

Alcohol and drug use can have a significant impact on overall mental health and wellbeing. Here in Northern Ireland it is estimated that in the region of 3.64m working hours are lost every year due to alcohol use alone.  This coupled with the ever increasing use of legal and illegal drugs in the work place will have an even bigger impact on individuals, families and business. 

“It is important that businesses understand the impact of alcohol and drug use within the workplace as well as their legal responsibilities to ensure the overall health, wellbeing and safety of their workforce. This summit provides a great opportunity for businesses to explore the issues and look at the practical things that they can do”

Dr David Cameron, Lead Clinician, Inspire Workplaces said;

Addressing mental health in the workplace is everyone’s business. Inspire Workplaces and Addiction NI are delighted to be working in partnership with Randox Testing Services on the Substance Use in the Workplace Summit.

“Stress is seen as the health epidemic of the 21st century – and workplace stress is a significant factor.  1 in 4 of the adult population will experience a mental health condition and days lost at work because of stress, anxiety and depression cost the UK economy an estimated £25.9 billion per annum. We are looking forward to exploring the practical solutions that employers can draw on to support the wellbeing of their staff and develop a productive and engaged workforce.”