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Chamber HR News – Cigarettes, Drugs And Alcohol September 3, 2007

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Chamber HR, Chamber Services, Services.
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This week’s article from Chamber HR looks at creating and managing a drugs and alcohol policy for the workplace, as well as the ramifications of the ban on smoking in the workplace.


Drugs Don’t Work

The Company is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of its employees at work and recognises that their well-being is important to performance.

Too many organisations and workers still insist that alcohol and drug abuse or addiction is a personal matter: so long as consumption takes place off work premises, they do not see it as a long-term implications for the health of the workers and possible impairment to work and behaviour.

A recent report from the Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work considered it essential that policies dealing with drugs and alcohol treat this as a health and welfare matter rather than purely disciplinary matter.

Dealing with Drugs in the Workplace

Each year millions of days are lost through alcohol related absence. That figure is undoubtedly raised when employers consider the impact of social drug taking. The British Crime Survey for 2002/3 indicated that 12% of people aged 16 – 59 had taken an illicit drug.

Drink and drugs do not mix within the modern workplace. Employees taking drugs and alcohol are affected by performance issues, raise concern for health & safety, and place others at risk, as well causing loss of client respect.

All employers need to put in place an effective policy that deals with the twin evils of drink and drugs. The policy must address the essential needs of the business, setting out how the employer will implement and enforce the policy, as well as providing support and assistance to staff where it is required. It is inadequate just to impose a set of rules without offering employee assistance through counselling, medical assistance and education.

Some organisations impose a zero tolerance policy and enforce this by means of a random drug testing within the workplace. The introduction of workplace drug testing is an emotive issue and not one that most employers need to take. An employer would have to show that there are essential health and safety needs to justify such action. The transport sector is clearly one that ought to consider this step.

Drug and Alcohol Policies

The best practice for employers, agree the HSE, the TUC, Alcohol Concern and other health organisations, is for employers to develop policies dealing with drugs and alcohol in the workplace, even if there is no evidence of a problem. Policies create certainty for existing and future employees, and lay the groundwork for tackling any problems that may arise.

The research  shows that effective policies are likely to lead to a decrease in accident rates, alcohol-related sickness absences and early retirements. They should also result in increased productivity and motivation and healthier and happier workforce.

A policy is for supporting employees, not a tool of dismissal.

Too little to late

Too often, however, employers only consider a policy after a problem has been identified or to comply with legislation or contractual demands. Further, many policies deal only with alcohol. However failing to address other abuse means that problems may be dealt with reactively on a case-by-case basis – which usually means inconsistently – and often in a way that leaves the employer open to criticism and compensation claims.

The overall aim is to protect as closely as possible the interests of all those who work for the Company, and also its clients and maintain the reputation and high standards that have become the norm.
A sympathetic and decisive approach

As work is usually the most structured part of the lives of most people, problems are likely to be revealed in the workplace. Deterioration in work performance is easily recognised and other problems are more difficult to hide. As with all difficult workplace issues, the most successful strategy is to tackle it sensitively, openly and with clear aim. An employer must investigate and analyse existing and potential problems and consult extensively with employees and their representatives before deciding what approach it will take.

An employer cannot just test or search employees for signs of drugs or alcohol. That can only be done with the consent of the employee or with the introduction of a contractual policy.

Where such a step is taken, the employer needs to ensure that the testing is properly undertaken and that the right to do so is covered comprehensively in the employment contract and handbook. Employers contemplating this step, or wanting their policies reviewed, can contact the advice service for further information on implementing and preparing the necessary documentation.

Smoke Free – It’s not a drag!

The Health Act concerning smoke free premises came into force in England on the 1st July 2007 and completes the requirement that applies in Scotland and Wales; who have already been smoke free for some time.

The Act places duties on those who manage, or who are in charge of premises, or vehicles to ensure they become and remain smoke free. The requirement applies to virtually all ‘enclosed’ and ‘substantially enclosed’ public places and workplaces. This also extends to permanent and temporary premises such as tents and marquees. It also means that indoor smoking rooms in public places and workplaces will no longer be allowed.

Premises are considered ‘enclosed’ if they have a ceiling or roof and are wholly enclosed either on a permanent or temporary basis; a smoking shelter with three sides and a roof would be viewed as being substantially enclosed. There is, however, no requirement for outdoor smoking shelters to be provided for employees or members of the public.

Employers, managers and those in charge of smoke free premises and vehicles will need to:

  • Display ‘no-smoking’ signs in smoke free premises and vehicles. In the case of vehicles the requirement only applies to shared vehicles and not those which would be a personal issue and use.
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that staff, customers, members and visitors are aware that premises and vehicles are legally required to be smoke free.
  • Remove any existing indoor smoking rooms.
  • Ensure that no one smokes in smoke free premises or vehicles.

You may also wish to consider measures such as:

  • A policy on how to deal with employees visiting clients at home, where they could be exposed to secondary smoke.
  • Developing a smoke free policy in consultation with employees.
  • Offer employee training to help them understand the new law and what their responsibilities are.
  • Provide employees and customers with support to stop smoking.

Further advice and documentation can be found by visiting the ChamberHr website www.chamberhr.co.uk

If you have not received your website log in details or you are a new member and would like to register to use the service please contact the membership team by email at membership@liverpoolchamber.org.uk or by telephone on 0151 227 1234

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