Recovery Plus: Workplace wellbeing 46 September 2016 Best-practice drug and alcohol policies Discovering that an employee is misusing alcohol or drugs in the workplace is an extremely serious matter, which often brings forth a conflict of interest. As an employer, you want to demonstrate compassion and concern towards the person(s) in question – but you also have the responsibility to ensure the welfare of your other employees, and into account how it might affect your business and its reputation moving forward. Finding the appropriate course of action to tackle and manage this problem can seem stressful and challenging, but it helps to resolve the situation within the parameters of employment law. Like many aspects of employment law, it is crucial for employers to have watertight policies in place, setting out how your business will deal with drugs or alcohol in the workplace. If your policy is on paper, or written into contracts of employment, there can be no contesting the action you decide to take if an employee breaks these rules. Getting signed evidence that the policy has been presented, read and understood by all employees is a failsafe way of making sure that you can rely on any sanctions outlined in the policy if the need arises. Additionally, it is imperative that employers ensure that the policy covers areas which can be seen as outside normal working hours, such as lunch breaks, so that employees are aware of the expectations set upon them at all times. Typically, an employee’s lunch break is unpaid, but this does not necessarily mean that it is free time or the employee’s own time. The lunch break can be seen as an extension of the working day, dependent on whether the employee leaves the office or takes lunch at their desks, and the effects of alcohol or drugs consumed during their break can have on the work carried out after this. In industries with operation of heavy machinery, preventing consumption of alcohol or drugs is particularly important, due to the potential for health and safety breaches or industrial accidents, for which the employer will be liable. When dealing with instances of drugs or alcohol in the workplace, employers are faced with a choice of three paths to follow. The first choice could be to follow the route of dismissal. Many businesses have policies in place stating that the use of illegal substances such as class A drugs in the workplace is gross misconduct, and thus a sackable offence. Despite this, it is important to bear in mind that you must obtain substantial forms of proof to back up allegations, and be careful to handle the issue in a fair and professional manner to avoid claims of unfair dismissal, which could result in a tribunal claim. The second path employers can pursue is a disciplinary. In cases of employees appearing drunk at work, or those misusing over-thecounter substances, a drugs and alcohol policy should state the disciplinary procedure they can face. Remember: consistency is key. Keeping detailed records of employee performance and attendance can help managers spot the warning signs of these addictions and back up reasons for opting for a disciplinary proceeding. When dealing with alcohol or drug misuse at work, employers should look to strike a balance By the end of this presentation at an earlier Recovery Plus In The Workplace, delegates were able to: 1) Demonstrate how as a good employer I can support the wellbeing of staff while still running my business 2) Identify the types of policies and procedures I need in place to ensure my business is not exposed to any litigation 3) List best practice solutions I can have in place to enable myself and other managers to ‘spot’ potential issues early.
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