How to manage an employee under the influence of alcohol

Wednesday May 8, 2019

Did you know that 21% of adults* drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week? That’s more than a glass of wine or low strength beer every day. Perhaps you are not too surprised by this statistic as going for a drink is known to be a popular pastime.

With that in mind, you may expect that some of your employees enjoy a drink or two in their downtime. Depending on the culture of your company, it might even be commonplace that colleagues meet after work for drinks. Trouble can arise however when an employee blurs the lines between work and play, and turns up to work under the influence of alcohol.

This is not only incredibly awkward and embarrassing, for them and onlookers. But it’s also a risky and potentially dangerous health and safety situation that needs to be dealt with quickly and legally.

Find out how best to deal with an employee who is potentially under the influence with our top tips below.

Investigate the situation

Meet immediately with the employee as soon as it is brought to your attention that they may be under the influence. There may be an innocent explanation. For instance, some medications can cause drowsiness and some illnesses can impair mobility. Therefore, it is important to assess the situation and establish whether the employee is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Or if it is something else like prescribed medication.

Refer to your policy

Having a policy that clearly sets out your company rules on drugs and alcohol in the workplace is essential. It will help you work out what to do next. If the employee is under the influence of alcohol, you can refer to your policy and explain the steps. This may be a gross misconduct issue that could result in summary dismissal.

If the employee is obviously incapable of working safely then they should be suspended on full pay pending further investigations

Investigate further

At a later date, invite the employee to an investigative interview. Interview witnesses and try to build a complete picture. Is it a one-off following a personal problem or celebratory event? Or is there an underlying addiction? Does your policy have a support system in place for addiction?

The findings of these questions will define your next steps. If having a drink is associated with your company culture, you may want to balance it out by providing your staff with health education on the effects of binge drinking.

Seek expert advice

Failing to manage an employee who is inebriated at work can cause even bigger problems. Random drug and alcohol testing is really recommended where driving or handling machinery is involved. And it’s worth noting that if you or a manager provided the alcohol, say at a work event, you can be at risk of vicarious liability and be implicated should any harm come to the employee.

If you’re in need of an alcohol policy, setting up testing or would like to train your managers on how to deal with alcohol in the workplace, contact your local HR Dept today.

 

*NHS Statistics on Alcohol, England 2019

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