Alcohol and Drugs in the workplace

Statistics suggest that 13% of workers in the UK use illegal drugs, 15% of workers have been intoxicated whilst at work and 5% of “sickness” absences are alcohol related.

Evidence of drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace can include:-

  • Absenteeism;
  • Lateness;
  • A drop in productivity; and
  • Underperformance

Considerations for dismissal.

 An employee’s consumption of drugs or alcohol can amount to a potentially fair reason for dismissal. This could be on the grounds of conduct (where the behaviour results in misconduct) or capability (where the drug or alcohol usage is affecting the employee’s performance).

If the employer wishes to take disciplinary action, they will need to show they had a genuine belief, after having undertaken a reasonable investigation, that the employee was guilty of misconduct. They should also show that dismissal was a reasonable response to the misconduct.

A Tribunal will expect an employer to take into account the following factors when reaching the decision to dismiss an employee under the influence of drugs or alcohol:-

  • Whether the conduct occurred while the employee was on duty;
  • Whether safety was compromised;
  • The effect on the employer’s reputation;
  • Illegality of the conduct;
  • Any previous instances of drugs/alcohol; and
  • Any mitigating factors

Ensuring you have a clear policy and procedure.

Employers should have regard to the ACAS Code of Practice which encourages employers, in the first instance, to provide as much support as possible to the affected employees, encouraging them to seek professional help and arrange regular meetings to monitor their progress.

Employers should consider implementing a Substance Misuse Policy if they don’t already have one in place, in order to ensure any issues are dealt with effectively and consistently. The policy should clearly set out what conduct is prohibited, the consequences of prohibited conduct and how an employer is likely to approach employees who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It would be beneficial to train managers to look for signs of drug and alcohol abuse and what support to offer for those in need.

In the event you are faced with an employee who has a dependency on drugs or alcohol, it would be an beneficial to have an informal chat with them first to ascertain the issues surrounding it, offer your help and support and encourage the employee to seek professional help. Sometimes there are mitigating reasons. However if this continues without improvement, the employee fails to engage with professional help or the employee endangers themselves or others at work, dismissal can be justified. Employers, in this case, will need to follow their disciplinary procedure to ensure a fair process is carried out.

For advice on any of the above or help in drafting the policies mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Langleys Employment Team.

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