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Drug and Alcohol Awareness - when do they become a workplace issue?

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Drinking or drug-taking becomes a workplace issue if health suffers, or if work is being done under the influence of drink or drugs.

It’s also a workplace issue if people are turning to drink or drugs because of work – perhaps because of stress, or because of physical problems caused by work, for example they’re having to use painkillers to cope with musculoskeletal problems caused by poor lifting technique or seating posture.

It’s not usually up to an employer to interfere in an employee’s private life unless it’s affecting their work, but it’s up to a company’s own work policies or rules to decide at which point it becomes a problem and needs to be dealt with.  

Occasionally coming in late with a suspected hangover may be acceptable in some workplaces.

In other workplaces a single occurrence may not be tolerated.

All workplaces are different and have their own policies and rules.

In some industries, such as transport, it’s a criminal offence to be unfit for work because of drink or drugs.

Although drugs are different from alcohol, in that they are not generally socially acceptable and often illegal, many employers deal with drugs and alcohol abuse in a similar way.

It’s a good idea for organisations to have a Substance Misuse Policy - even if you feel there is currently no problem in your organisation. It’s a safeguard and will be there if it’s ever needed.

It clearly sets out expectations and explains how substance misuse is to be dealt with.

It’ll mean there’s consistency in how everyone is treated. No one will be able to say they’ve been unfairly treated if you follow stated guidelines. For example, some organisations treat drug and alcohol dependence as an illness and their policies are aimed at the employees seeking treatment. Other organisations state quite clearly that, where there is clear evidence of drugs or alcohol affecting an employee’s behaviour or performance at work, dismissal is likely. It very much depends on your organisation.

There is no such thing as a STANDARD Policy.

The point of creating a policy which is right for your workplace is to make sure that problems are dealt with quickly and effectively in the best way for your organisation and for your employees.

Having a written policy, including a written disciplinary procedure, in place is very important when dealing with drugs and alcohol. It means there’s less chance of misunderstandings.

For more information claim your free trial of our Drug and Alcohol Awareness course