The misuse of drugs, including alcohol and other substances, can be a serious problem for the abuser, co-workers and the organisation itself.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances have a strongly negative effect on the brain and the body, impairing judgement and concentration and putting the abuser and co-workers at risk.
Staff who misuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to take time off, display poor performance and increase the risk of accidents. These factors weaken an organisation’s overall performance.
When you become aware of the issue, you should:
- keep accurate, confidential records of instances of poor performance or other problems
- interview the worker in private as early as possible in the process
- concentrate on the instances of poor performance that have been identified
- ask for the worker’s reasons for poor performance and question whether it could be due to a health problem, without specifically mentioning alcohol or drugs
- if appropriate, discuss your alcohol and drugs policy and the help available inside or outside of your organisation
- agree future action
- arrange regular meetings to monitor progress and discuss any further problems if they arise.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act drugs are classified according to their perceived danger. (need to check the accuracy)
- Class A: including ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, LSD, mescaline, methadone, morphine ?? Class A or B?? , opium ?? Class A or B?? and injectable forms of class B drugs.
- Class B: including cannabis, cannabis resin, oral preparations of amphetamines, barbiturates and codeine.
- Class C: including most benzodiazepine (for example, Temazepam, Valium), other less harmful drugs of the amphetamine group, and anabolic steroids.
Employers who decide to adopt alcohol or drug screening as part of their alcohol and drugs policy should ensure this is done lawfully and fairly. Screening is the way of testing whether employees have alcohol, drugs or other substances in their body. Usually this involves providing a urine sample.
Some employees, such as those who work in a safety critical area, may be automatically or randomly tested for alcohol or drugs due to the nature of their work.
Screening is a sensitive matter. Employers need the permission of employees and should only carry out screening when they have a reason for testing under health and safety policy.
Employers should ensure that:
- no-one is singled out during random testing;
- if a search for alcohol or drugs is carried out then it must be by someone of the same sex, with a witness present;
- employees are made aware of any possible disciplinary action they may face if they refuse a test.
Employers have a legal responsibility to look after employees’ wellbeing, health and safety. A good employer will want to help employees. In some cases, alcohol or drug misuse may be used to help cope with work-related stress. If there is a problem with alcohol or drug misuse in your workplace then this may be part of a wider stress problem.
Some employers treat alcohol and drug misuse as a medical rather than a disciplinary matter. In this case, the chances of overcoming the problem is assessed and a reasonable period of time off for recovery is agreed.
They may also consider appropriate help to treat the employee (for example, by contributing towards the cost of counselling and/or treatment), treat any absence for treatment and rehabilitation as normal sick leave and review the person’s work to ensure that their workload is not contributing to the problem.