The Drugs Don’t Work

by Laura Rennie

As a HR practitioner working within many different industries, I have started to see a pattern of behaviour. Cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, MDMA and now even heroin: illegal drugs that employees are taking before they arrive at work. It is no surprise that in a recent report the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that ‘the total cost of absenteeism, lost productivity and lost output associated with illicit drug use in Scotland is estimated at £818.9 million’.

The more worrying situation is that some employees are more productive (over a short term) when they are ‘on’ drugs than when they are not.

So what can we do as employers? Let’s look at a few different situations:

Your employee discloses they have a problem with drugs.

It is important that you get this right immediately. Being held in a position of trust is a massive step for someone with a drugs problem and coming to speak with you as an employer is the first step to assist their problem.

  • Ensure confidentially.
  • Thank them for speaking to you.
  • If you have occupational health services available then refer, otherwise you should offer local resources or appropriate charities.
  • Risk assess your workplace. If there are any health and safety implications, consider the safety of other staff and that of the employee.
  • Do you have any reasonable adjustments to offer/consider?
  • Follow your own organisation’s drug policy. If you have one, use it.

Your employee arrives at work and it appears they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you feel that an employee is under the influence, the first action you must take is to make them safe. Either remove them from the workplace and get them home or have a friend or family member take them home.

If you have a reasonable belief that they may have been guilty of gross misconduct, I would suggest you place them on a precautionary suspension and carry out a full fact finding investigation. Consult your disciplinary policy to determine what exact steps you have agreed to follow.

Where you have a drug/alcohol testing policy, ensure you follow it. It may allow you to carry out a check on the employee.

During the suspension, ensure you have a witness when removing the employee from the workplace and ensure all communication is provided in writing as the employee may not remember what has been said.

As employers, we want to keep all of our employees safe so it’s a good idea to ensure all managers are aware of the following:

  • Consider any changes in behaviour that don’t seem to be linked to anything else.
  • Ensure you take a note of any changes or specific incidents that cause concern.
  • Try to build a trusting relationship with staff and provide a culture that allows staff to share if they are struggling with a problem.

As always, if anyone has any specific issues please reach out to me.

Before I go, I want to remind everyone of the updates to the tribunal limits. For dismissals taking place after 6th April 2023, the maximum amount of a week’s pay (the basic award for unfair dismissal) has increased from £571 to £643, and the compensatory award for most unfair dismissal cases has increased from £93,878 to £105,707.

Next time, I’ll be talking about wellbeing in the workplace and absence management procedures. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the magazine and keep #doingHRright.