In recent years, there are increasing numbers of people who turn up work under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
According to a survey conducted by the Health and Safety Executive in 1994, 90% of personnel directors from top UK organisations stated that alcohol consumption was a problem for their organisation.
18% of large company directors reported illegal drug use by their employees in 2004, a survey through the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development and the Reward Group 2004.
The impact of an employee under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the workplace could be:
– Poor discipline and violent behaviour
– Safety endangered for everyone at the workplace
– Effect on employee relations and team morale
– Poor performance and loss of efficiency
– Lateness and absenteeism
– Unpleasant effects on company image and customer relations.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, it’s the responsibility of company directors to take into account, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees.
A director could be prosecuted if he deliberately allowed an employee under the influence of drugs and/or excessive alcohol to continue working whilst placing the employee or others at risk.
Likewise, employees are also responsible to take sensible care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they perform.
Eg: If you’re working in a transport industry, The Transport and Works Act 1992 makes it a criminal offence for certain employees to be unfit through drink and/or drugs while working on railways, buses, tramways and other guided transport systems.
The operators of the transport system would also be guilty of an offence unless they had shown all due diligence in trying to prevent such an offence being committed.
How to Deal with the Situation-
First of all, an employer should investigate whether the incident was a one-off, occurs on a regular basis or he/she has underlying medical conditions (eg: depression, stress). Research has shown that many employees tend to use drugs/alcohol to cope with their work-related stress.
If your employee has such medical conditions, provide a doctor consultation and confidential support through her/his problem. This could help stop the behavior.
Before a fair dismissal takes place, the employer is expected to observe the whole situation, and offer support. Care needs to be taken before taking disciplinary action.
Without any proof or reasonable grounds, employers cannot simply report an employee for a suspected criminal offence. Such action could result in an employee claiming constructive or unfair dismissal.
To prevent such a situation from happening, directors can introduce a policy of random drug and alcohol testing and conduct pre-employment testing for illegal drugs and alcohol misuse.
To verify whether you have the adequate alcohol and drug policy, seek advice from a specialist employment lawyer. Visit Find A Solicitor to get the nearest experienced employment specialist solicitor.
If you would like additional information or help, you may want to contact the organizations below:
Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
180 Borough High Street
London SE1 1LW
Helpline: 08457 47 47 47
ACAS can provide advice to employers and employees on the employment and industrial relations implications of policies on alcohol at work.
8 Shelton Street
London WC2H 9JR
Tel: 020 7395 4000
Alcohol Concern can put you in touch with local alcohol advisory services, in particular those that are members of the Federation of Workplace Alcohol Advisory Services (FEDWAAS).
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