Drugs and Alcohol

by Ian Robinson

The policy

An effective drugs and alcohol policy is not just a short statement of ‘zero tolerance’, nor should it be a policy that is written and then just becomes a document gathering dust on a shelf.

A drugs and alcohol policy should include a position statement from the organisation clarifying the intention behind the policy. This statement should explain how the organisation aims to prevent substance misuse problems in the workplace and should clearly state with the procedure for dealing with drugs- and alcohol-related issues.

Although ‘zero tolerance’ of drugs and/or alcohol use is an acceptable position to start from, the policy should allow for each incident to be judged on its own merits and ensure that any disciplinary procedure or consequences represent an appropriate response. The aim should be to support affected employees rather than punish them. If an employee admits to having a drug- or alcohol-related problem, the policy should allow for them to seek treatment, if appropriate. After all, how much would it cost your organisation to recruit, and retrain to the same standard, the person that has just been dismissed for a minor indiscretion because of your ‘zero tolerance’ policy? The organisation will always retain the right to dismiss a member of staff should that be the appropriate course of action (for example, selling Class ‘A’ controlled drugs on the premises).

One size does not fit all

Do not be tempted to use an off-the-shelf policy as this is definitely a case of ‘one size does not fit all’. Your organisation’s policy will be different to that of the next organisation – or it should be. It may even be that there are different sections within the policy for various departments. An example of this might concern whether or not the drinking of alcohol is permitted during the working day: staff who operate machinery will probably not be permitted to drink any alcohol, whereas sales staff who are entertaining clients may be permitted to consume a reasonable amount.

Before you start developing your policy, therefore, you will need to consider a number of issues. It’s important to identify the needs of your particular business and the policy must also be consistent with your staff guidelines and contracts. It’s also essential that the policy is consistent with other polices, such as those relating to health and safety.