"Edmund Tirbutt, reformed alcoholic and author of Beat the Booze, believes HR professionals simply do not know where to start. "These are some of the most complicated cases HR will ever come across," he says, "but there's a lot of misinformation out there, none of which addresses the problem."
Tirbutt believes a single policy is not the right answer. "Drink and substance problems are like cancers. There are hundreds of different types and many different solutions. It's completely wrong to think there is one problem and one cure. If you weren't sure whether you had a stomach ulcer or cancer, you wouldn't go and ask your line manager or HR director for their opinion. You'd see a doctor. HR professionals should be there to refer people to occupational health services as soon as possible," he says. He urges employers to bear in mind that, while alcohol sufferers in particular often live in denial, "nobody sets out to be a drunkard. Something has gone wrong with their life, just like something has gone wrong with someone who has developed a debilitating condition like ME.""