Drugs and alcohol policy: advice for employers
Discovering that someone you know is misusing alcohol or drugs is a sad and serious matter. But when that individual is your employee, you face a range of problems and conflicts. As well as obvious damage to their own health, drugs or alcohol in the workplace could cause harm to others, affect performance, and seriously damage the reputation of your business.
Like many aspects of employment law, it is crucial for employers to have watertight policies in place setting out how your business will deal with drugs or alcohol in the workplace. If your policy is down on paper, or written into contracts of employment, there can be no ifs or buts.
How to deal with drugs or alcohol in the workplace
When dealing with instances of drugs or alcohol in the workplace, employers are faced with a choice of three paths:
- Dismissal - Many businesses have policies in place stating that the use of illegal substances such as class A drugs in the workplace is gross misconduct, and therefore a sackable offence. However, you will need proof to back up any allegations, and be careful to handle the issue in a fair and professional manner to avoid claims of unfair dismissal.
- Discipline - In cases of employees appearing to be drunk at work, or those misusing over-the-counter substances, a drugs and alcohol policy should state the disciplinary procedure they may face – consistency is key. Keeping detailed records of employee performance and attendance can help managers spot the warning signs of these addictions and back up their reasons for the disciplinary proceedings.
- Understanding - In some cases, employers will take a more compassionate view; for example if the employee has problems in their personal life, or you dont believe it is affecting their performance. An Employee Assistance Programme provides employees with helplines for advice, as well as face-to-face counselling sessions. Employers who see addiction as an illness may also allow employees to take long term sick leave to address their problems.
Documentation and advice for employers
From writing up bespoke contracts of employment for each of your employees, to providing a small business health & safety policy, Peninsulas documentation services are invaluable for employers. Not only does it guarantee your policies are watertight and above board, but they can be downloaded and printed off from the Peninsula online client area whenever you need them. This can of course include a drugs and alcohol policy tailored to your requirements.
If you suspect an employee is misusing drugs or alcohol, clients can also contact the 24/7 employment law helpline for urgent advice on handling this issue.