Every workplace should have a drug and alcohol policy in place that is included in employee handbooks and clearly communicated 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 it is your duty, as an employer, to ensure the health and well-being of all of your staff.
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 start by clarifying 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 tells 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 clarify whether drug or alcohol abuse is considered ‘gross misconduct’ and, if so, what steps will be taken including possible 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 also 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 than you would someone who is going out drinking every other night and turning up to 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.
If you need some support in producing a Drug and Alcohol Policy for your business, or any other policies for your employee handbooks, then we have qualified and experienced HR consultants who are here to help.
Book a free consultation with us today on 0845 2626 260 to discuss our services further