Develop a workplace drug and alcohol policy
All organisations can benefit from an agreed policy, applying to all staff, on alcohol and drug misuse.
Such a policy should form part of your organisation’s overall health and safety policy. Many large organisations have policies that describe their position on drug misuse. A written alcohol and drugs policy has many advantages, for example leaving less room for misunderstanding than an informal ‘understanding’.
Gaining the support of the employees for any change in company rules while creating a policy, will be much easier if staff feel that they have been consulted beforehand.
A straightforward process to establish and implement a policy for dealing with alcohol and drug misuse can be found in the HSENI publication 'Developing and implementing workplace drugs and alcohol policies'.
In deciding what to do, you will almost certainly need to consult others, particularly your employees. You should consult safety representatives appointed by recognised trade unions. If your employees are not covered by such representatives, you should consult them either directly, or indirectly through elected representatives of employee safety.
Employees may be more likely to come forward and admit a drug or alcohol problem if they feel assured that their problems will be dealt with discreety. However, you will also have to consider your own legal position. If evidence or information supplied to you suggests that an employee’s alcohol and drug problem has involved breaking the law at work, please refer to 'Drugs and alcohol - the legal position'.
More companies, particularly those in safety critical environments, are using screening and testing as a way of controlling alcohol or drug problems. It can be used in various ways:
- as part of a selection process for job applicants
- testing all or part of the workforce routinely, occasionally or on a random basis
- in specific circumstances, such as after an accident or incident, where there is evidence of drinking or drug taking that contravenes the company’s regulations, or as part of an aftercare rehabilitation programme
- to monitor a particular problem, for example, employees reporting for work with alcohol in their bloodstream from the previous evening’s drinking
The implications of introducing screening
Agreement to the principle of screening must be incorporated into employees’ contract of employment. For new staff, this can be fairly straight forward but existing staff are under no legal obligation to agree to changes in their terms and conditions of service. If an employer tried to force a test on an unwilling employee, the employee could resign and claim ‘constructive dismissal’.
- Drug misuse at work - a guide for employers
- Developing and implementing workplace drugs and alcohol policies
- Workplace drugs and alcohol policies - example of a model policy
- Workplace drugs and alcohol policies - information for workers
- The Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000
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.