Companies are not legally required to implement alcohol and drug policies, nor to pay for treatment for employees with alcohol and drug problems.
But employment protection law requires employers to treat dependence as a form of sickness, rather than an immediate cause for dismissal, giving the employee the opportunity to overcome the problem.
Many companies, however, ignore the problem until it is too late and the employee is dismissed due to deteriorating performance.
However, an employee who is helped from an early stage can recover from their addiction and go cost of recruiting and training a replacement may be greater than the cost of allowing someone time off to get expert help.
Call 0808 115 0608 today and get the help you need now.
Addiction and the office at a glance:
- As an employee, you are entitled to the same rights as someone struggling with a medical or psychological condition. In return, your employer is required to offer complete confidentiality and time off for therapy and treatment.
- It can be more expensive for your employer to dismiss, fire and train someone new rather than support your problem.
- Your employer has to treat your addiction just like any other illness
Your rights and responsibilities
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) point out in their guide to Drugs Misuse at Work: “You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of your employees.”
As an employee, the HSE states that you also have responsibilities: “Similarly, your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do.”
A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that organisations are more likely to provide support where individuals have held their hands up and admitted they have a problem than when problems have been discovered as a result of an incident at work.
Your employer’s responsibility
Each employer has a duty of care they need to provide for their staff members. This is to ensure that your health, safety and wellbeing is being prioritised and looked after.
Employees who are struggling with alcohol and drugs are protected under this – that’s why your employer needs to act if they find you are struggling with addiction, not only to protect you but also the company.
What happens if I’m caught drinking at work?
Addiction is a disease and it will inevitably affect and seep into your work life.
Your employer has a responsibility to prevent and help with this. You can see the laws on this below:
Addiction at work: Legislation
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: According to section 2 of this legislation, an employer is responsible for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all their employees to a reasonable degree. Employers can be prosecuted if that employee is allowed to work under the employer’s knowledge that they are under the influence (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999).
- Misuse of Drugs Act 1971: This act makes it an offence for an employer to allow either the supply, use or production of controlled substances on their premises. This legislation only covers illegal and non-prescription drugs.
- The Transport and Works Act 1992: The legislation decrees that it is illegal for anyone who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol on a public road. Here, both the employee and the employer can be prosecuted.
What you can do
- Read your company’s policy on alcohol or drugs misuse if they have one. If they do not have a policy then read their healthcare policy for sick employees;
- Visit your GP and get a diagnosis to present to your employer;
- Talk confidentially to your line manager about your diagnosed problem, they are likely to have noticed a change in your behaviours already. They should offer you specialist counselling, a referral to an occupational physician, or time off work for you to attend rehab;
- Ask for time off work to address your addiction;
- Talk to your GP and/or your company’s Occupational Physician about treatment options;
- If you have a private health insurance plan through your company phone them to see if they will cover all or part of the cost of treatment;
- Keep a file of recording all communications between you and your employers;
- If you are simply dismissed without the offer of any help then you have the right to claim for unfair dismissal from an Employment Tribunal.
Can I be fired for having an addiction?
Your employer is required to provide essential support for you during this time as they have a duty of care towards you. If you have been dismissed or have faced any disciplinary action you can sue your employer for unfair dismissal if you are being penalised for your condition, problem or addiction.
Workplace advice for dealing with your problem:
Get away and solve the problem
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Helpful free resources:
Or talk to one of our specialist therapists for further advice here.
Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Alison