Luke Watkeys, Business Manager
Whilst a tipple or two outside of work during the holiday season is often considered fair play (and in some circumstances openly encouraged!), when such antics spill over into the workplace, major issues can occur.
The evidence from professional bodies indicates that health, work performance, conduct and working relationships can all be adversely affected by the misuse of drugs, alcohol and other mind altering substances not prescribed for a medical purpose; which in turn affects the service you offer. So how can you deal with this?
· Get a proper policy for dealing with these matters in place. It should make clear that unless in exceptional circumstances as agreed by senior management, staff should not be under the influence of drugs, alcohol and other mind altering substances not prescribed for a medical purpose during working hours.
· Encourage staff to disclose concerns to you. In respect of those who have a dependence upon alcohol and or drugs, apply a sensitive and non-judgmental approach to encourage those with a problem to seek help voluntarily at an early stage.
· Be aware. It can be difficult to spot drug or alcohol abuse, but typical signs include dramatic weight loss; bloodshot eyes and runny nose; trembling hands and unsteady gait; and a sudden or worsened skin problem. They may also suffer from mood swings. Look into unexplained absences from the work area or long and frequent trips to the toilets. They may also be found in odd, out of the way places during working hours. Where the situation arises that a manager suspects or believes that an employee has an alcohol and or substance misuse issue then the matter should be investigated with the aim of establishing the facts.
Where an employee has voluntarily disclosed they have a substance misuse issue, ensure that in the first instance it is treated as an illness, like any other employee suffering a period of sickness. Your policy should also provide for disciplinary action for misconduct as a result of drug or alcohol use and refusal to accept help after being made aware of the issue.
It is the responsibility of everybody in an organisation, in particular management, to be alert to the signs of drug and or alcohol misuse, and to intervene where necessary - particularly where there appears to be a risk of an employee compromising their own health and safety or that of others.