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How should employers handle workplace drug and alcohol issues?

18 November 2017

Alsager Family Solicitors

Statistics out this week suggest that workplace stress is causing GPs to turn to alcohol and prescription drugs.  These figures reflect a wider problem with substance abuse in the workplace. Given this rise, it is imperative for employers to know how to handle such concerns.

Identifying a problem

The first step in resolving a potential substance abuse issue is to establish whether or not drugs and/or alcohol are at the heart of the problem.

The following circumstances might indicate that an employee is misusing drugs and/or alcohol:

  • Poor attendance
  • A change in behaviour
  • Poor performance/productivity

It is important that employers do not make assumptions about the underlying issue causing workplace problems. Employers should proceed with caution if an employee is not prepared to admit to substance misuse.

Investigating the problem

An employer should check employment contracts to ascertain whether or not they give the employer the right to search lockers and perform drug screening. Where such provisions are included, employers should take care to use such authority appropriately. If the contracts do not give such permission, employers should consider whether such provisions should be included in future contracts issued.

Capability or Disciplinary Procedure

Employers should follow an appropriate capability procedure where an employee’s performance is being negatively impacted by substance misuse. It may be sensible to offer the support of an occupational health adviser. Employers should remember that substance misuse does not have to mean the end of an employment relationship; with appropriate support employees may recover from alcohol or drug dependency.

If the employment relationship has been damaged beyond repair by substance misuse concern or if the employee works in a sector where substance misuse cannot be tolerated then dismissal may be the only option. Employers must ensure to follow an appropriate disciplinary procedure in this instance.

If you need advice and support in connection with a workplace substance misuse concern please contact on employment team on 01270 625478 or email here.

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