Introduction to this document

Alcohol and drugs policy

A policy statement outlining your position on alcohol and drug abuse is a must, particularly if your business is in an industry where health and safety concerns are paramount. You owe a duty to your employees and to third parties to protect their health, safety and welfare as far as reasonably practicable and this includes risks presented by fellow employees.

A statutory duty

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a duty on you to keep your employees (and third parties on your premises) free from risk of harm to their health, safety and welfare so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes a duty to take steps to ensure that your employees are not put at risk by their fellow colleagues, for example because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Your employees are also obliged to co-operate with you, implement your policies and report risks in this regard. Our Alcohol and Drugs Policy statement strikes a fair balance between trying to constructively assist an employee with their alcohol or substance abuse problems and dealing with abuse as a serious disciplinary issue where the rules are broken, for example where alcohol or drugs are consumed or taken on work premises or where there is an incident of alcohol or drug-related misconduct at work.

Testing times

It’s not as simple as being able to test employees when you like for alcohol or drug use. This is because a requirement for employees to undergo testing constitutes an invasion of their privacy. That said, their privacy may be legitimately restricted in certain circumstances, mainly where necessary to protect health and safety. You must be able to demonstrate that testing was necessary to achieve a legitimate business aim and was proportionate, i.e. appropriate and necessary, to achieve that aim. Safety at work is a legitimate business aim but you must still be able to show that your testing was not excessive and was appropriate to achieve your aim. What this means is that you should only really conduct testing where the employee’s job duties are safety-critical, for example, they operate dangerous machinery or are employed to drive vehicles, or where there’s actually been an accident at work or incident that caused a danger to health and safety. It is unlikely to be justifiable to implement random alcohol or drugs testing for all staff. Our policy statement covers this issue.