Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is more common than you would probably like to think, so it is important to have a clear policy written up in your employee handbooks and distributed to all staff.
The use or supply of drugs and alcohol in the workplace puts not only the user at risk, but also your other employees and any visitors or guests that you have on the premises, and it is your duty, as an employer, to ensure the health and well-being of everyone on site.
It’s important that drug and alcohol issues are dealt with effectively and as soon as they are made apparent to you before the situation escalates.
Alcohol and drug abuse is a sensitive subject and should be treated as such. Many organisations now treat it as an illness and tailor their policies to target rehabilitation rather than punishment, although disciplinary action should be considered too.
Your Drug and Alcohol Policy should open with an outline of the legalities such as the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which states that it’s an offence for someone to knowingly permit the production, supply or use of controlled drugs on their premises except in specified circumstances e.g. prescription drugs
This clearly informs employees that it is recognised by criminal law as an illegal act for their employer to turn a blind eye to drug use at work so if they are found to be guilty of this, there will be consequences.
You should also clarify whether drug or alcohol abuse is considered ‘gross misconduct’ and, if so, what steps will be taken which can result in dismissal.
Alternatively, you may choose to treat it as a minor offence, depending on the circumstances, and encourage your employee to seek help and support in dealing with their issues.
It may be useful to include advice on how employees can identify and report any suspected drug or alcohol use in the workplace, though this may refer to any whistle-blowing policy that you have in place.
The biggest problem with a Drug and Alcohol Policy is that every situation will be different and it may need to be treated on a case by case basis. For example, one employee may be suffering with mental health issues outside of work and self-medicating with alcohol which has now seeped into their working day. You may choose to take a more sympathetic stance towards this then you would someone who is going out drinking every other night and turning up at work drunk.
If you do decide that each case of drug or alcohol abuse will need to be treated in relation to the specific circumstances then this should be clearly written in your policy otherwise you could be accused of treating your employees unequally.
You’ll also need to mention the right to test your employees and the stance that the company will take on those who refuse to be tested.
You may also have a different policy for alcohol use than for drugs as alcohol is considered more acceptable and some companies even purchase alcohol for their employees as a reward, or consume alcohol on site as an incentive for hitting targets.
You may even come across addictions to prescription drugs which is considered a disability; whereas, alcohol is not.
These kind of ‘grey areas’ will need to be addressed in your policy too.
A great way to start educating yourself and your employees on the dangers of substance abuse and company policies is take our Online Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training Course.
The course takes approximately 20 minutes and upon successful completion you will be awarded a certificate.