Drugs in the Workplace: A Guide for Managers & Employers

Employees should be well informed as to the policy and know that it applies to everyone in the company. Even if you are confident that your business does not currently have a problem, drug misuse that affects the workplace is a growing threat. It is advisable to have an agreed, written policy setting out the company’s position. In any case, your policy should state that being unfit for work due to alcohol or drug consumption will normally result in action being taken under the company’s disciplinary procedure. In more serious cases, being under the influence at work could be grounds for termination of employment, potentially on the grounds ofgross misconduct. Of course, these aren’t always indicators of substance misuse; the employee may also be struggling with family stress, illness or a work problem.

signs of employee drug use

Knowing the signs of drug and alcohol misuse, and how to spot them in the workplace, will help managers and team leaders mitigate health and safety risks and support their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. Where it is justified, some employers screen employees for illegal substances as part of their drug policy, particularly in safety critical industries. With the widespread advance in non-intrusive methods of testing, this is likely to become more common. However, this is a very sensitive area because of the legal issues involved and we would recommend you take advice to ensure there is no breach of your employees’ rights.

Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work

What rules you impose is subject to your discretion and will largely depend on the nature of your organisation, but it’s important to make sure they are clear and reasonable. Simply enter your number below and one of our addiction counsellors will call you back in a few minutes. A functional addict may not be as easy to spot in the workplace, because they seem to be doing well enough.

signs of employee drug use

You will need to seek a GP referral to a community drug and alcohol service in order to access this treatment. The NHS lists some of these organisations on its website, eco sober house rating and you can search their database of providers by inputting your postcode. Managers and HR staff are in a unique position to tackle substance misuse in the UK.

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An intervention is typically conducted by an experienced interventionist for a fee. Make awareness of the policy a part of the induction programme for new employees. Behavioural changes may also lead to conduct issues, including chronic lateness, an argumentative or aggressive attitude with colleagues and customers, and taking longer breaks or slacking off.

Employees who misuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to take time off work, display poor performance, cause reputational damage, and increase the risk of accidents. No organisation wants this, which is why a proactive approach is needed. Under The Health and Safety At Work Act 1974, all employers have a legal duty of care to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare.

They can also provide a complete advice document for employers or training for your team. Reasonable suspicion of drug use must be documented through witnesses of the employee’s behavior. Signs to look out for include changes in appearance, mood swings, tardiness, frequent mistakes at work, and slurred speech.

Addiction in the Workplace

It should also be written into contracts of employment so that employees are clear that it is a requirement of the role and what to expect. Before implementing any testing programme, employees and their representatives must be consulted. Poor job performance, reduced productivity and an increase in the number of mistakes. Employers, HR and managers need to be aware that these effects may also be due to other issues, such as stress and illness. There are different levels of dependence, and excessive quantities do not have to be consumed. It does not matter whether drugs are illegal or legal, as people can still become dependent on them.

  • It has been discovered that people who work in mining and construction have the highest level of alcohol consumption.
  • Finally, the Transport and Works Act of 1992 strictly prohibits anyone who is under the influence from driving on a public road and employers can be prosecuted if they do not prevent this from happening.
  • To sustain their addiction, they may possess, manufacture, and even sell illicit drugs in the workplace.
  • These factors may mean it is difficult to say with certainty that an employee is actually experiencing a problem with substance misuse.

Indeed, most of the time problems can be insidious and creep up on users over time. The information provided should never be used to shock or scare employees, as this can cause further distress for those with substance problems. Employers should aim to use materials that promote health and wellbeing for the workforce as a whole. Managers should have adequate resources and support to help employees in the best way they can.


But according to independent UK charity Drinkaware, if you regularly drink more than three to four units a day if you are a man, or two to three units if you are a women you could be making yourself feel more stressed. Drivers of road vehicles and transport system workers are under the influence of drugs while driving or unfit through drugs while working . A statement that the policy will be regularly reviewed, has the support of all management and that, where appropriate, employee representation has been consulted with. Support for an employee doesn’t end at treatment, returning to work can be daunting for an employee in recovery, they may have lost confidence, lack self-esteem or be unsure around their colleagues. Participation in support groups such as AA or NA (UKNA | Narcotics Anonymous in the UK) provide the employee with peer-led support whilst in recovery. Safety and Health Practitioner is first for independent health and safety news.

  • Many workers are currently experiencing immense stress and, oftentimes, people believe substance use is a solution.
  • In this case, the chances of overcoming the problem is assessed and a reasonable period of time off for recovery is agreed.
  • By doing your bit as an employer and ensuring that any member of staff who needs treatment gets it at the right time, you will be protecting your business.
  • As previously mentioned, OSHA and others have rules and regulations for workplace safety.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that it is your duty as an employer to ensure you safeguard the welfare, health and safety at work of all your employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.

This will allow employees to seek out help within a set period of time without the risk of them being subject to disciplinary measures. You could allow employees to seek out help confidentially with the promise that all treatment costs will be covered by the workplace insurance policy. If it becomes apparent that an employee is abusing substances outside of work, then you could consider assisting this person in seeking out addiction treatment services. This may be necessary if an employee offers unique skills that may be difficult to access in the current job market. In safety-critical roles, you may wish to reserve the right to randomly test employees at regular intervals.

One of our admissions team can discuss your treatment and payment options with you. Depending on your company’s policy, failing a drug test could lead to disciplinary action or you being dismissed. If your company has a zero tolerance policy to drugs, just the positive test could be seen as ‘gross misconduct’ and you could be dismissed immediately or suspended while there is an investigation. This is most likely if your job is safety-critical such as driving or operating machinery. Employers can only drug test if there is a drug testing policy that the employee is aware of and agrees to.

How to approach employees about drug and alcohol addiction

It’s often said that opioid abuse and addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. It affects people from all walks of life—teens and adults, professionals and blue collar workers alike. If you are having any issues with substance abuse, you are entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem. Discuss your problems with your GP and they can get you the appropriate treatment. And if you are doing drug testing to weedle out those employees that may yield a positive test result, says Pink, then you are “not a very ethical employer”. He advises having support in place for those who do test positive, “rather than saying ‘you’re sacked’”.

Further, due cause testing could be introduced where there is accident, incident or suspicion of substance misuse. This could also extend to contractors; while employers will be unable to enforce this, refusing to take a test could be viewed as an admission of guilt, which may lead to the individual being expelled from the site. Openly accusing someone of using drugs or coming to work drunk or high can be feel like an attack and lead to heated confrontations, which will only make matters worse. It could also result in the employee resigning and making a successfulconstructive dismissalclaim.

Guy Pink, HR consultant and former HR director at addiction charity We Are With You , says remote working can make it harder for employers to identify those who are struggling. The discussion of addiction and rehab is a difficult topic for employers. Balancing what is in the business’ best interest and trying to https://rehabliving.net/ carry out your duty of care as an employer can be challenging. Employers can find themselves wrestling with a business versus moral dilemma which can make the decision of how to proceed difficult. Some companies have a condition in the contract that employees should not be under the influence of drugs at work.

All organisations can benefit from a written policy on alcohol and drug misuse. This will form part of your employee handbook, which should be made easily accessible to all staff. Liam has been providing expert training and consultancy in the field of substance misuse for over 20 years. In that time he has helped organisations across the UK understand and manage the complex issues around substance misuse in the workplace. As an experienced University Lecturer, Consultant and trainer Liam has the ability to run training, workshops and seminars to engage staff at all levels of your organisation.

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