Drugs and alcohol - the legal position

As an employer, the following pieces of legislation outline your legal responsibilities regarding alcohol and drug misuse at work.

Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978

You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 act to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of your employees.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000

You also have a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, to assess the risks to the health and safety of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of drug misuse or excess alcohol to continue working and his or her behaviour places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted. Your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do at work.

Transport and Works Act 1992

The Transport and Works Act 1992 makes it a criminal offence for certain workers to be unfit through drugs and/or drink while working on railways, tramways and other guided transport systems. The operators of the transport system would also be guilty of an offence unless they had shown all due diligence in trying to prevent such an offence being committed.

Road Traffic Act 1988

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs shall be guilty of an offence. An offence is also committed if a person unfit through drink or drugs is in charge of a motor vehicle in the same circumstances.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

The principal legislation in the UK for controlling the misuse of drugs is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Nearly all drugs with misuse and/or dependence liability are covered by it. The Act makes the production, supply and possession of these controlled drugs unlawful except in certain specified circumstances (for example, when they have been prescribed by a doctor). If you knowingly permit the production or supply of any controlled drugs, the smoking of cannabis or certain other activities to take place on your premises you could be committing an offence.


Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.