Drug and alcohol misuse policy

1. Aim

Wycombe District Council recognises that persistent drug, alcohol and substance misuse is primarily a health matter needing help and treatment. The council will aim to ensure that anyone suffering from these problems has access to appropriate advice and support with the objective of restoring health and productivity.

The council has a legitimate interest in drug, alcohol and substance misuse use in the following circumstances:

  • where employees are engaging in illegal activities in the workplace
  • where employees are intoxicated in working hours
  • where drug, alcohol or substance misuse is having an impact on performance or conduct
  • where the nature of the work is such that any responsible employer would be expected to take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of accident, damage, or breach of statutory duty of care held by the council to an individual or group of individuals
  • where the nature of the work is such that the public is entitled to expect a higher than average standard of behaviour

The council requires that employees do not consume alcohol or misuse drugs during or outside working hours to the extent that it:

  • impairs working relationships
  • impairs performance
  • potentially or actually puts their own or others' health, safety or welfare at risk
  • adversely affects the council's reputation

This policy relates to circumstances where individuals have become dependent on drugs or alcohol. It does not apply to isolated instances of misconduct caused by the effects of alcohol, drugs or other substances.

2. Scope

This policy can only be effective if those affected admit that they have a problem and are willing to accept help. Employees who do not admit to a problem and/or are unwilling to accept help may leave themselves open to action under the Council's disciplinary or capability procedures.

For the purposes of this policy the term "drug" includes prescribed medicines, over the counter medicines, solvents and substances controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

3. Principles

  • Employees seeking help will be treated sympathetically and in confidence
  • The council will offer as much support as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • Employees will be expected to comply with this policy and well as related policies such as the sickness absence policy and health and safety guidelines

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Managers

  • To monitor the working environment and be alert to symptoms and evidence of misuse
  • To support the wellbeing of employees by taking prompt action
  • To raise awareness amongst staff of this policy and support available

4.2 Employees

  • Take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others
  • Urge colleagues to seek help if they have a misuse problem
  • Avoid covering up or colluding with colleagues
  • To be alert to the potential difficulties of others with misuse problems and communicate any concerns to their line manager responsibly and confidentially
  • Seek help if they experience drug/alcohol misuse problems
  • To avoid the use of illegal substances or any substance which may affect work or affect their ability to perform their duties in a safe manner.

5. Indicators of possible misuse

  • Complaints and remarks by colleagues and/or customers
  • Abnormal behaviour e.g. aggression, sudden mood swings, confusion
  • Frequent smell of alcohol
  • Decline in standards of appearance
  • Erratic performance, reduced response times
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Increasing levels of short term absenteeism
  • Incidents of minor accidents

This list is not exclusive and is provided for general guidance; indicators that an employee may be under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other substance. Note: The signs shown above can be caused by other health conditions. 

6. Procedure

Where a manager suspects alcohol or drug abuse they will arrange to meet with the employee to discuss their concerns, providing the employee with the basis of their concern and give the employee an opportunity to respond.

Where an employee admits to an alcohol or drug problem:

  • the manager will discuss this with them and provide details of the support available through the EAP counselling scheme
  • the employee will be encouraged to discuss their problem with their GP
  • employee will be referred to the council's occupational health advisor in order to determine what further support may be appropriate
  • occupational health advice will be taken into account in developing and agreeing an action plan, monitoring mechanisms and timeframe
  • the manager will inform the employee of the expectation that they will commit to a support programme where one has been identified
  • where treatment is recommended it may be appropriate to make temporary adjustments to work; proposed actions will be discussed with the employee and take into account health and safety considerations and the needs of the service
  • where treatment is unsuccessful or where the manager considers that relapses can no longer be tolerated the council will consider the option of terminating employment on the grounds of ill health; in these circumstances a case review hearing will be held chaired by the head of service (or Director) advised by an HR representative (see absence management policy for further details of the case review hearing process)
  • there may be occasions when the use of the council's disciplinary policy is appropriate regardless of whether the employee is following a recovery programme, for example behaviour likely to cause reputational damage to the council, endangering the health and safety of others, verbal abuse whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Where there is no medical evidence of addiction or the employee either does not admit to a problem and/or refuses to agree to an occupational health referral issues will be dealt with using the appropriate council policy.

  • Acts of misconduct will be managed in accordance with the disciplinary procedure; where gross misconduct is involved evidence of drug or alcohol abuse may be taken into account in determining disciplinary sanctions
  • Illegal activities in the workplace will be reported to the police
  • Performance issues will be managed in accordance with the capability procedure

7. Driving

Where employees who are required to drive as part of their terms and conditions of employment are disqualified from driving as a result of a drink or drugs related offence consideration will be given to reasonable alternative arrangements. If the full range of duties cannot be performed redeployment may be considered. In these circumstances salary protection will not apply. If the council cannot make alternative arrangements the employee's continuing employment may be at risk. Travel to and from work remains the employee's responsibility.

Note: Where a manager has reasonable grounds to suspect an employee is intoxicated at work they will meet with the employee, raise their concerns, provide an opportunity for a response and determine what immediate actions are required to minimise risk to the employee and others.