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Alcohol & Drug Misuse

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that they take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their staff. This means that any employer who allows any of their staff to work under the influence of drink or drugs will be in breach of the duty of care owed to the staff, as well as putting them at risk of harm.

Criminal offences may also be committed if an employer allows staff to work under the influence of alcohol – such as if a member of staff is in control of any vehicle. In addition, occupiers of premises, including employers, will be breaking the law if they knowingly allow the supply of controlled drugs at their premises or permit the smoking of cannabis.

Alcohol and/or drug misuse can become an issue of misconduct or raise questions on an employee’s capability to do his or her work. An obvious example is when an employee loses his or her driving licence because of a drink-related offence. If the employee is specifically employed to do a driving job then the driving ban may justify dismissal. However, even in this situation, the relevant Employment Tribunal cases indicate that an employer should consider the possibility of transferring the employee to a non-driving role before carrying out a dismissal. Other isolated incidents of excessive alcohol consumption ought to be considered as a matter of misconduct, and the question of whether dismissal is appropriate would depend on the circumstances.

Dependency on alcohol or drugs should be considered as an illness, and handled as a capability issue. In addition, severe alcohol abuse may have such effects, for example, as clinical depression, which may amount to a disability under the Disability Discriminatio Act.

Employers should have a policy addressing these issues, and apply them in a consistent manner (link to PAYG policy)


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