Each week, Peninsula Business Services invite business owners, finance directors and senior management to take advantage of our national program of FREE Employment Law and Health & Safety Webinars.

Amanda Chadwick

This webinar will look at the importance of ensuring that your staff are conducting their personal and home lives in as healthy a manner as possible, whilst also looking at the dangers of addiction and assess the benefits of clean and healthy living. I’ll use the webinar to highlight how to help workers who do suffer with any addictions with substance abuse.

If you would like any further information or advice on dealing with addiction in the workplace then please call our advice service on 0844 892 2772 or contact us online.

Click Here for the Video Transcript:

Good morning, everybody. Hello, and welcome to my webinar today on how to deal with employee addictions in the workplace. On this webinar today, we’re actually talking about not just alcohol, but also we’re talking about drug abuse; we’re talking about all types of addictions.

I’m Amanda Chadwick. I’m the Senior Speaker for Peninsula Business Services Limited, which is an employment law consultancy – health and safety consultancy, the largest one in the UK that’s been around for over 30 years. We currently integrate ourselves within 27,000 businesses throughout the UK.

My first message to you, really, would be to remember that anyone can be an addict, so there’s no set look for somebody to be an addict or some set role in life that turns somebody into an addict. Anybody can be an addict.

It could be drugs that somebody’s addicted to, it could be shopping, it could be gambling, it could be alcohol, it could be pornography, it could be computers, Facebook, social networking sites, smoking, prescription drugs, non-prescription. Really, the list grows every day with addiction and types of addiction.

What is coming out of addiction is professional, high-functioning alcoholics that are very successful and feel because they’re successful, they’re allowed to have a drink after work. It’s accepted. They don’t believe they’re an alcoholic. It’s part of the job to entertain clients. But it isn’t acceptable just because they’re successful people.

So my take on this is consumption of alcohol during work hours, it is a major concern for employers, and there are several reasons why. The number one is that it can increase absenteeism, sickness absence. It can have a real impact on safety and productivity at work. It’s also a really serious problem as a business owner. It’s important to minimise the risks related to drinking at work.

I would expect to see rules in your handbooks related to drinking at work. This is as well as breaks and lunch hours. It should be clear in the disciplinary rules that it’s not tolerated. I would expect to see – which we’re going to talk about later on – alcohol and drug policies, because consumption of alcohol during work hours can be a major area of concern for employers, HR and managers.

As I said, it increases absenteeism, sickness. It has an impact on safety and productivity, people’s awareness. It’s a real serious problem. Any consumption, whether it’s alcohol or drugs or other substances such as solvent abuse, it can cost employers amazing amounts of money through sickness, through accidents.

So I would like to see alcohol testing, drug testing policies, et cetera. We’re going to talk about that later on, okay? When I think about the drug policies, I think about getting it right, because otherwise, you’re going to have a problem if you get it wrong.

So, addiction and what is addiction. An addiction is an unhealthy relationship with drugs or alcohol – and it doesn’t have to be drugs or alcohol. Like I said, it can be porn, the Internet, Facebook, in which you use more than you would like to use or more often, and you continue to use despite negative consequences.

People use drugs or alcohol or the Internet or porn to escape, relax or to reward themselves. But over time, drugs and alcohol make you believe that you can’t cope without them or that you can’t enjoy life without using them.

The greatest damage is to your self-esteem if you’re an employee. Addiction is defined as not having control over what you’re doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.

Addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and nicotine, but it’s possible to be addicted to anything, such as work. Workaholics are obsessed with their work to the extent that they suffer physical exhaustion. If your relationship, family and social life are suffering and you don’t take holidays, for example, you may be a work addict.

So, you, the employer, the manager, or HR, what you need to look out for here with workaholics are breaks, the working time regulations, making sure that people are taking holidays, so if somebody did have a breakdown or if somebody did have a stress-related illness, you’ve got the defense in place to say, “Excuse me, what we did is we did manage that person’s work. We didn’t allow them to work over 48 hours. We had an opt-out agreement. If they did, we managed it effectively. We made sure that they took their breaks. We made sure they had breaks from the computer. We made sure and we managed the holidays throughout the year.”

So, this is workaholics here. One of the biggest complaints in tribunal, as you know, is the working time regulations. If I’m not taking the holidays and I twist it and say “it was your fault that I’m not” we can go back six years to claim those holidays.

So, computers. As computer use has increased, so too has computer addiction. I say to my children, “what are you doing off the Xbox, get back on it!”

I am only joking here, but that is what it has come to, hasn’t it? Some families forget they’ve got kids because they’re always on computers. When we go out for a meal, they go, “can I take my iPad with me? Can I take my iPhone?” You’re like, “no, you can’t. We’re going for a meal.”

This is what has happened. Think of what we’ve got now. Think of the future and what we’re going to inherit with employees.

Computer addiction is growing. People spend hours each day and night surfing the Internet or playing games while neglecting other aspects of their lives like cleaning up, like washing, like work, like interaction with fellow members of the family. These are just some of the aspects of their lives which they leave to one’s side.

Also, computers and use of can cause stress. People use their iPhone or their phone before they go to bed at night, and straightaway, they’ve got a bright screen in their eyes and their eyes aren’t resting while they’re asleep. In fact, just a little bit of a tip here, there’s a special screen, an app that you can download which turns your screen into orange after 5:00 at night so it relaxes you when you’re actually reading your phone or using it as a computer device.

We’ve got solvents. Volatile substance abuse is when you inhale substances such as glue, aerosols, paint and lighter fuel to give you a feeling of intoxication. Solvent abuse can kill people.

Shopping – shopping becomes an addiction when you buy things you don’t need or want in order to achieve a buzz. This is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair.

I have to say that I really love not shopping for clothes, but shopping for food; having a cupboard full of food. When I was younger, we had the basic food in the cupboard. So, for me, I like to have my cupboards full of food which I don’t really need. I think there are a lot of people out there with the same view on that as well. Is it an addiction? I don’t know. Is it an addiction to want my cupboards full? Probably. So maybe I have an addiction when it comes to food shopping.

Then porn – accessible. I have to say that one of my children has a mobile phone, and I caught one of my eldest children years ago having access to porn on the Internet quite easily, looking up the facts of life, and then having access to lots of pornographic websites. What we have is we have them getting introduced to it at an early stage, which is absolutely horrendous because the way they perceive sexuality or sex or people and the treating of men and women can be highly exposed in the wrong way.

So, porn in the workplace as well. We deal with many cases of young adults becoming addicted to porn on their mobiles, in work, on computers.

So here, what I would say to you is that you should have an Internet policy. You should have a use of Internet policy. You should say that you control it, that you look at what they’re watching. You should have blocks on computers, blocks on phones. You should have something in place that says when they’re completely addicted to gambling, shopping or excessive use of Internet sites, that it’s logged to you and also that if they overuse their phone because of access to these sites, you have the right to deduct it from their wages.

So again, porn is a relatively new one that we have seen growing year after year after year. We’re seeing more young people becoming addicted to the use of pornography because it is more accessible.

So, what is addiction? The word addiction tends to be overused to apply to any examples of overindulgence. In reality, something is only really an addiction when it begins to cause a problem for the individual and those who are close to them.

When it comes to alcohol and drugs, it’s said that addiction involves both physiological and psychological dependence.

To say that a person is physiologically dependent means that they’ve developed an increased tolerance for the substance and so will need to take more of it to get the same effect or a kick. The individual will develop unpleasant withdrawal symptoms should they attempt to reduce their intake of the drug or quit altogether for whatever they are addicted to. It is a fear of these withdrawal symptoms that can make people afraid of ending their addiction, even though they are rarely any worse than flu symptoms.

Psychological dependence means that the individual feels they have to take these substances in order to cope with life. Even the idea of reducing their intake or quitting will fill them with fear and dread and anxiety. This psychological dependence also means that the individual will experience cravings for the substances. This is a deep inner urge to use alcohol or drugs. Even those who have been sober for many years can sometimes still experience occasional cravings for the substances that they once abused.

Addiction can occur with certain behaviours as well as with alcohol and drugs, and it can be used to refer to anything that is causing problems for the individual. These maladaptive means of coping can be as destructive in the person’s life as any other type of addiction.

So whatever a person is addicted to, they can’t control how they use it, and they may become dependent on it to get through daily life.

There are many reasons why addictions begin. In the case of drugs, alcohol and nicotine, these substances affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable and create a powerful urge to use those substances again. Gambling may result in similar mental highs after a win, followed by a strong urge to try again and recreate that feeling. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop.

Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms or a comedown. Because this can be unpleasant, it’s easier to carry on having or doing what you crave, so the cycle continues. Often, addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the high. The strain of managing addiction can seriously damage a person’s work and relationships. In the case of substance abuse, that’s drugs and alcohol, and addiction can have serious psychological and physical effects.

Some studies suggest that addiction is genetic, that environmental factors such as being brought up by someone with an addiction can also have an impact. That’s also thought to be the risk. But, you know, I don’t purely agree with that because you can be brought up with somebody with an addiction, and what can happen is it can have the opposite effect and you can think, well, you know what? I’m not going to be an alcoholic. I’m not going to be a drug user. I’m not going to be addicted to porn.

An addiction can be a way of blocking out difficult issues. Unemployment and poverty can trigger addiction, along with stress and emotional or professional pressure.

Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about what people are addicted to, and how you, the employer, manager and HR handle that.

So what we’ve got is these are the addictions. Alcohol – high-performing people can be addicted to alcohol. We’ve got crystal meth. This, for me, is one of the most dangerous drugs to use because the impact changes somebody’s personality and they not only can get addicted to drugs and alcohol, but then also get addicted to sex and abuse members of the family. So, we’ve got a real issue here with crystal meth.

LSD – we get out of control with this drug. We do things that we might not do ordinarily. Amphetamines – getting psyched up, anxiety, palpitations. Also, this falls into slimming drugs and addiction to slimming.

We’ve got drug abuse – marijuana, anabolic steroids. Somebody wants a better physical appearance, anabolic steroids. What we see there is you’re treading on eggshells around that person. They can be very angry, outbursts, a temper, anger, and unexpected results from that person.

Dual diagnosis – methadone, anorexia nervosa, food disorders, bulimia, overeating, Ecstasy, PCP, gambling addiction, prescription drugs. People are addicted, for example, to Paracetamol. There’s a paradox effect here because they take them initially to cure the pain, but then if you continue taking it, they create pain. So, we have a paradox effect here.

Cocaine addiction – I’ve got a little story to tell you there about a company, a recruitment company was recruiting, and a man walks into their interview and cocaine falls out of his nose onto his tie. We’ve got heroin, prescription stimulants, Codeine, sex addiction, co-dependency, inhalants, shopping addiction, crack cocaine, Ketamine.

Energy drinks – that actually carries an addiction now and it can make you feel panicky, anxiety, et cetera, and palpitations, again, very similar to somebody who’s got a slimming problem and wants to lose weight, wants to keep the weight off and will use amphetamines and energy drinks to do that but also laxatives as well. So we’ve got lots of people here that we could talk about.

So the impact it has on your business, problems that can arise for employers, are this: we’ve got a decrease in productivity, increased staff turnover, lower profit margins, increase in absenteeism, loss of clients because they don’t feel trust there, damage to the organisation’s reputation, especially if there’s an accident or when known to be taking drugs, accidents, near-misses even, where there’s a near-miss, breaches of health and safety requirements, trust issues from other members of the staff, employee theft, lower staff morale, workplace bullying, increased stress levels and anger, fights and arguments. That’s the impact alone, just some of the impact it has on business.

So what are the clues to drug, alcohol or any addiction? Let’s have a look at some of these clues. Remember, these clues could relate to something else. I don’t want you to automatically get a hold of a stressed person and go, “you’re addicted to drugs, aren’t you? I can tell because I’ve just been on a webinar and I’ve just ticked all these boxes.”

I don’t want you to do that, okay? I am giving you an overview on law today. Lots of these clues could relate to something else, like a personal issue at home. It could be debt. It could be family issues. They could be worried about health or a member of the family, so don’t just automatically assume that this is drug or alcohol or another addiction. It could be something else.

These are generally the clues to some sort of addiction: lack of focus in a job role, time off work, excuses they give you for time off are differing and they don’t weigh up, dishevelled appearance, changes in appearance – and that could include weight gain or weight loss. When you know somebody’s been very smart for years and suddenly they have a dishevelled appearance, their partner might have thrown them out or they could have an addiction problem.

We’ve got lateness, we’ve got poor conduct, we’ve got capability issues. Their performance decreases. There’s an increase in output if they’re on amphetamines. There’s mistakes or they’re acting out of character. There might be a lack of concentration or focus within their job or job role or a particular project. They could be tired. They could be falling asleep at work. There could be a poor attitude towards fellow workers.

They might have a certain smell about them because they might smell unclean. I know I’ve stood in rooms with people and I know that they’ve just had a joint. You can smell it on their clothing and in their hair when they’re next to you, you know, when you’re in a shop and somebody comes up to you and you can smell smoking. I have an acute sense of smell. But you can smell marijuana on somebody. You can smell certain drugs on people as well. But also if they’re not looking after themselves, they might start to smell unhygienic in their body odour, for example.

They could be confused. You can’t get the right answer out of them. They’re not giving you a straight answer. They might come across a little bit as if they’ve got a mental problem. They could be stealing. They never have any money or they can’t pay their bills and they’re always moaning about it. They’re always borrowing money from fellow colleagues. There’s a change in attitude or behaviour. They’re argumentative, withdrawn, outwardly sociable. They might be taking more breaks than usual or they might even be disappearing for times at work.

So, common types of illicit addictive drugs – I’ve given you this before, but again, we’ve got amphetamines, cocaine, crack. We’ve got lots of stuff on there. But then what we’ve also got to consider are common types of prescriptive drugs that may be used. The reason I’ve included lots of information into this webinar today is because I think if you’re handling drug abuse or alcohol abuse or addiction within the workplace, you’ve got to familiarise yourself with types of drugs, smells, things that are used.

The reason I suggest this is – I don’t mean go try and them or anything like that, what I mean is familiarise yourself and look up information about those drugs because then you’ll be able to spot them and your managers will. If you’re doing a course within work to educate your managers, which is a great idea, you can speak about them with great knowledge about what impact they have on somebody’s well-being within the workplace and they’ve got the signs then to look for.

What we’ve got here are the prescriptive drugs that are usually addictive and people get used to using: opiate-based painkillers, we’ve got Tramadol, we’ve got co-codamol.

I remember my granddad having co-codamol for his bad back, and he used to give it to my mom. So when I was younger and I suffered from a migraine, my mom would say, “Oh, have a co-codamol. That will knock you out.”

And boy, was she right. I’d take one – I think I only took it a couple of times. At first, I didn’t think it was the medicine that did it, I just thought I was ill. But I would take it and I actually had like a toxic effect within my body where I’d vomit and it made me feel so out of control and dizzy that I thought, “No way am I ever taking that drug again.” It really did knock you out. So if somebody has got that prescribed at work, what are the impacts on the work they’re carrying out?

We’ve got Valium as well, beta blockers, and then we’ve got things that aren’t prescriptive that you can buy over-the-counter, such as laxatives. If somebody’s got an eating disorder, they’re constantly taking out laxatives. So you might want to look at how often somebody – I’m not saying, you know, big brother society and watch how many times people go to the toilet, but there are other trigger factors when you’re looking at it. It might be a consideration of how often that person takes a break, how long they take, and how often they go to the toilet.

Gambling addiction – I thought I’d mention this one here. I’ve put a couple of slides on gambling addiction here. We do receive a hell of a lot of calls from both men and women on our Employee Assistance Programme who experience difficulties managing their gambling. We’ve seen a steady increase that could be attributed to the ease of gambling online.

Look, what I do sometimes if I’m feeling like I just want a bit of a break for a while from legislation, from health and safety, from employment law, from pensions, I just think, “Let’s get loads of magazines from the shop.”

The magazines that I buy are like Take a Break, Bella, Chat, you know, those types of magazines. I can read life stories on people that I think, you know what? It’s not so bad in life, is it? There are people out there that are a lot worse off than me. I read it and I think, this is interesting to read. My husband says if you read those, actually you feel like killing yourself when you’ve read them. I read them because it’s a little bit of respite for me. It’s an easy read.

What I have noticed are these magazines are aimed at certain people. But also in these magazines, they target people for gambling. You know, bingo, making it easy and accessible at home to be able to pick up your smartphone, pick up your laptop, go online now and gamble away your money. But also newspapers now encourage gambling. It’s just becoming out of hand now because if you already have an addictive nature or if you just want to have a little bit of respite, you go into gambling and it’s easy to become addicted to it.

You may get an employee who mentions their concerns to you. It may come out when discussing time off or during an appraisal. So how do you lose control of your gambling?

So, this is what I want you to think. I’ve given you these slides so that you’re going to become gambling aware when dealing with employees. It’s just really some questions you can ask, okay?

If somebody says to you, “I think I might be losing control of my gambling. I’ve gone on a bingo website, I just bet all my wages, and I’ve got nothing left. Do you think I’ve got a problem?”

So, if you gamble, do you forget about responsibilities? Do you feel better when you feel depressed or sad if you gamble? Do you do it to fill your time when you’re bored, especially if you’re not working, when you drink or use drugs, when you get angry or by yourself? So these are the questions I’d ask.

If somebody says, “I might have a problem with gambling.” Is it a problem for me? These are the questions I would ask – I’m asking them like, as if I’m the person: do I spend a lot of time thinking about gambling? No, I don’t. Am I spending large amounts of money on my gambling? No. Have I tried to cut down or stop gambling but have not been able to? No. Do I get restless or irritable if try to cut down my gambling? No. Do I gamble to escape from life’s difficulties or to cheer myself up? No. Do I carry on playing after losing money to try and win it back? No. Have I lied to other people about how much time or money I spend on gambling? Have I ever stolen money to fund my gambling? Has my gambling affected my relationships or my job? Do I get other people to lend me money when I’ve lost?

So what we’d say to an employee or somebody on the Employee Assistance Program that we’re helping is if you’ve answered ‘yes’ just once, then maybe you’ve got a problem, and this one thing may be enough of a problem to need help. So start thinking about if you’ve answered ‘yes’.

If you’re saying ‘yes’ three times, then we’re saying you’ve got a problem gambling. Your gambling probably feels out of control. You need to think about getting help to assist you.

If you’re answering ‘yes’ five times or more, that’s pathological gambling. Your gambling is probably affecting every part of your life and you really do need to get help. So these are the questions that we would probably ask in our Employee Assistance Program.

If you are dealing with these issues as an employer, what you’ve got to remember is dealing with an employee who displays substance misuse or symptoms of an addiction; it can be really stressful for you to begin with. So, you need to be prepared. You need to look after yourself because I know that you will get personally involved to see this person as a project to get them better. So although you’re offering help and support to the employee, you’ve got to straightaway look after yourself because you’re dealing with this issue.

When I’ve helped clients before and I’ve spoken to clients about helping employees with addiction, they get really involved with that person. They take it to heart that they’ve given them this job, they’re paying them a wage, and they’re trying to look after them and they can’t believe they’ve become addicted to drugs or alcohol. So you need to know what you’re talking about, first of all. Research the stuff. Know what you’re going to say, but ultimately, look after yourself before you start dealing with the employee.

Consideration as the employer on the impact that unhealthy living can have on somebody’s work and the resulting absence that can occur, which could then lead on to formal action against that person for non-attendance and absence records. This is what you’ve got to consider as the employer. Ultimately, you’re going to go down a route with this employee based on their unhealthy living, the impact it’s having on your work and everybody else’s work, and the business itself. You’ve got to have certain policies in place to deal with this, which we’re going to talk about in a moment. What you also consider is that this could ultimately lead on to formal action against that person. So, you know you’ve got to be aware of that.

Remember, generally, addictions are not a disability; however, the effects of it can be. So if I was an alcoholic, it’s not a disability. But cirrhosis of the liver from excessive drinking could be. Once there is a disability to consider, then we’re going down a different route.

There’s also the duty to consider reasonable adjustments here. Also, it could be that I’ve got a disability because I’m depressed as a result of gambling, porn addiction, et cetera, so you’ve also got to consider that. Now, if I’m stressed or depressed, I’m taking medication for it, then I fall into the disability side again and you’ve got to consider reasonable adjustments.

Being a smoker, so addicted to nicotine, is also different from being addicted to illegal substances, such as cocaine, as this then falls within the criminal remit. Although the act itself may not necessarily justify dismissal, a resulting prison sentence or any adverse reputational damage to the business may be sufficient to warrant a dismissal. But you know what? I’m giving you an overview here today. I haven’t got a clue what you’ve got written down. I don’t know what you’ve got in place. Also, what you’ve got to remember is that I do want you to take advice.

Other things to consider: an employee who you have heard has a drinking problem and is showing signs of erratic behaviour. So we’ve now got a sickness issue and now recently, they’ve been off with depression as well. So, as I said earlier on, normally, any addiction such as alcohol, nicotine, substances or even porn are specifically excluded from the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. But bear in mind though, illnesses caused by an addiction might amount to a protected disability. So, case law for us has confirmed that depression caused by alcohol abuse could constitute a disability providing it meets the criteria set out under the definition of disability.

In general terms, being a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on the individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, that’s what we would call a disability.

If an employee is suffering from depression that constitutes a disability – it might be a result of alcoholism or something else – you must comply with the Equality Act. Any detrimental action, such as a dismissal, will need to be objectively justified. That means looking at the needs and basing your decision that you’re making as a business, as a business decision after looking at alternatives.

You will also be under duty to make any reasonable adjustments to the workplace to help accommodate the employee. I would seek advice from experts. This may include allowing extended time off for the treatment or it might even include flexible working to attend a support group. The truth is that the factors to consider with best practice with the disabled employee may not be that different to those of an employee using best practice when considering long-term sick.

So, policies I’ve said you must consider here are a capability policy; an alcohol and drug testing policy; a search policy that allows you to search your staff for stealing, for drug abuse, for alcohol abuse, for mobile phones; disciplinary procedures; return to work interviews; absence management; appraisals, KPIs; looking at your breaks; looking at health questionnaires, health statements, that type of thing in place to support you when you’re going through the actions of sickness, disability, absenteeism, addiction and substance abuse.

So, what is the health and safety perspective? Is it an employer’s concern or business if a staff member has an addiction, a drug addiction? Yes, it is. Drug misuse can be a serious problem, not only for the misuser and the business, exposing the risk to accidents, near-accidents, but it’s illegal at the end of the day; criminal charges both for the employee and the employer. So if you suspect and you don’t do anything, you could be breaking the law if you knowingly allow drug-related activities in your workplace and you fail to act.

So, the health and safety perspective, I’ve actually put their statement on here word-for-word so you get it right and you understand how important health and safety take this.

‘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 at work of your employees. You also have a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to assess the risks to the health and safety of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of drug misuse to continue working and his or her behaviour places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted. Your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do at work.’

Then we’ve got the Transport and Works Act 1992. It ‘makes it a criminal offense for certain workers to be unfit through drugs and/or drink while working on railways, tramways and other guided transport systems. The operators of the transport system would also be guilty of an offense unless they had shown all due diligence in trying to prevent such an offense being committed.’

So what I’m looking for there, if an accident occurs, I’m looking for an induction, I’m looking for somebody to sign and say they’ve read it and understood it, I’m looking for health questionnaires, health assessments, drug/alcohol testing policies, regular random testing, I’m looking for capability policies, I’m looking for return to work interviews. This is all defence if you had an accident.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that, ‘any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs shall be guilty of an offense. An offense is also committed if a person unfit through drink or drugs is in charge of a motor vehicle in the same circumstances.’

So, you know what? You give somebody a vehicle to drive, you give them machinery to operate, you need to check that their license is all valid. I don’t mean just photocopy it and put it on file, I mean to check with the DVLA that they haven’t been banned from driving. You need to write that in the handbook to say they need to let you know if they get any endorsements. You need to delegate responsibility and authority and you need to train people. Then what you need to do is have proof of that.

The principal legislation in the UK for controlling the misuse of drugs is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Nearly all drugs with misuse and/or dependence liability are covered by it. The act makes the production, supply and possession of these controlled drugs unlawful except in certain specified circumstances, for example, when they’ve been prescribed by a doctor. But beware. Remember what I said earlier on? Prescription drugs can become addictive. If you knowingly permit the production or supply of any controlled drugs, the smoking of cannabis or certain other activities that take place on your premises, you could be committing an offense. So, remember that.

That is word-by-word the health and safety perspective on tolerating drug and alcohol abuse.

So what are the benefits of tackling addiction? Look, recruitment, the cost to retrain and cost to replace members of staff you’ve dismissed; absenteeism – it’s a nightmare controlling it if you’ve left it to carry on. I want you to manage it effectively. I want sickness, absent report in place. I want you to do return to work interviews straight from the word ‘go’, and that means after one day.

You’ve got to look at the cost to businesses. You’ve got to look at the fact that SSP and the right to claim it back for the employer is going on the 6th of April. You’ve got to look at the government’s plans for folks on sickness and put the responsibility back to you. You’ve got to look at what it costs your business. You want to grow, don’t you? So, let’s concentrate on drug addiction, alcohol addiction, absenteeism and managing it, because if you’re going to leave it and not manage it, it’s going to be a nightmare for you to control it in the long-term and it’s going to cost you an absolute fortune.

Return to work interviews, sickness reporting procedures, drug/alcohol policies, a health questionnaire, health statements; that’s what I’m looking for. I want you to create a positive environment and to let people know that you control it. If you do find somebody who has any type of addiction that you do offer support, one of the things I suggest – we have a service that’s available, an Employee Assistance Program, that’s available to all of your staff. Early intervention counts.

Also what we’re looking at, if you do tackle addiction and sickness, we’re looking at accident reduction here, and I want that in the health and safety policy. I want a health statement that says things like, “I don’t take drugs”. You need to ask the question, “Are you having counselling?” Because somebody might not be off, but they might attend an addiction group. You need to know. You need to put that in a statement, “Are you in counselling? Are you taking medication? Do you have a disability? Let us know if your medical condition changes.”

So I’m looking for a health questionnaire but then I’m looking for a health statement that you always have in your health and safety policy and your employment law handbook to protect you. I’m looking for drug and alcohol testing and a policy to support that. Remember, the benefits of tackling addiction will give you positive media attention, especially if you want to contact the local paper to say you realise that it’s on the increase but you as a company support your staff and manage it within the workplace. What you don’t want is it to turn around on you and have a negative impact through the media and expose you after an accident because you just let things go.

Also, by proving that you’ve got zero tolerance to drug abuse, drug addiction, alcohol, smoking, stealing, et cetera, what you are doing by saying, “I’ve got a search policy in place”, “I’ve got a drug and alcohol testing policy”, you’re showing that you’ve got safeguards in place and that you take these things seriously to any potential clients of yours. If you tender it, it works wonders. So it’s giving reassurance to potential clients and you’re using specific policies. You’re helping the whole scheme of things here and you’re creating a positive environment.

How do some employers deal with it? Well, some employers will not get involved and they’ll just see what happens, as anything that happens out of work they think is not their business. That’s the wrong approach. Employees may feel isolated and feel they have no benefit to the business and productivity declines.

Other employers will attempt to help the employee, but they run the risk because they don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t know what they’re talking about, they haven’t got training, and they run the risk of giving incorrect advice that could result in making the situation worse if the employee takes advice and the situation remains the same, gets worse, or the employee blames the manager who gave the advice.

If you are tackling the issue here, what I’m looking for before you tackle the issue is make yourself aware of what an addiction is and what type of addictions are out there. If you’re looking at the drugs, have a look at the type of drugs. Make yourself aware of what to look for, but remember the signs might lead to something else. Remember what I said earlier on. It could be stress. It could be a family problem. It might not be drug addiction.

Have the right policies in place in the first place to help you control the situation. Be aware if it does fall under the disability category – depression, stress, taking medication – that we’re looking at reasonable adjustments here and they’re protected under the disability law.

Do follow your own procedures. Don’t be using somebody else’s. Get a drug/alcohol policy in place. When you do get a drug and alcohol policy in place, you should include your equal aims in that you’re saying that it applies to all; who is responsible for the policy, who’s controlling the policy, and it really should be a senior manager here.

What you also should include in there is what constitutes misuse. You should put in there rules and how employees are expected to behave. Refer to your safeguards. You’ve got to keep the policy up to date because it can change because addiction and what people become addicted to can change. Society has a major impact on the drug and alcohol policy. Business changes can also have an impact – new equipment, new machinery, change of premises. So, we like to do a risk assessment here.

Confidentiality is very important. You need to have a statement and reassurance in this policy to let people know if they do approach and they come to you, that you have the utmost confidence and that they will get support and help that you offer, that you will put them in touch with governing bodies, and also you will give them information on what abuse addiction and misuse is and also you need to have a statement in there to say it’s also criminal law, too.

In the policy, I’m looking for disciplinary action, and I want a link in the policy to gross misconduct. It’s got to be linked to gross misconduct, and in gross misconduct, a statement as well. You should include the circumstances in which disciplinary action will be taken, and explain if help that you offer is refused, you will have documented that. If there’s impaired performance and it continues, disciplinary action will be taken and it is very likely. Explain that dismissal action may be taken in cases of gross misconduct. But also in the policy, state that possession or dealing will be reported immediately to the police and that there is no alternative to this procedure. It will be a criminal issue.

If you do suspect an employee has an addiction or a drug problem, remember here confidentiality and support. As with any other medical condition or psychological condition, this is crucial. It might be difficult if they won’t admit that they have a problem. This is where the testing policy does come in handy, really, and the search policy, because you’ve got proof and evidence.

Whilst your freedom to act may be limited, especially if you haven’t got the right policies, if it becomes clear that an employee has broken the law at work, you should let staff know that you will as far as possible treat drug abuse and misuse as a health issue rather than an immediate course of dismissal or disciplinary action. Sometimes, the law takes this out of your hands.

Disciplinary action may be taken as a last resort. You could be judged to have unfairly dismissed employees whose work problems are related to drug or alcohol misuse, for example, if you’ve made no attempt to help them. However, you may need to temporarily move them to another job if their normal work is safety-critical. You may allow them time off to get help, because it could work out cheaper than going through recruitment and replacement.

Do ask yourself, do you have an Employee Assistance Program? This addiction is only going to grow. If one of your employees is misusing drugs, you should encourage them to seek help from your organisation’s occupational physician or nurse if you have one – a GP or drug specialist agency. You might seek support from your peers and managers who have more experience. Only when you’ve gathered enough information together and consulted would you be ready to take the next step.

As I said, I would like you to have an alcohol drug testing policy. All organisations, large and small, can benefit from an agreed policy to combat misuse and addiction. Such a policy should form part of your contract, part of your employee handbook, part of your organisation’s overall health and safety policy as well. It should go in the employee handbook. Include your position and tolerance on drug addiction and other addictions.

I want the rules written as opposed to informal rules. Lots of companies think, well, you know, it’s spoken, isn’t it? You don’t use drugs in the workplace. But where does it say it? It’s a good idea to have a policy even with no evidence. So even if you know you’ve got an absolute clean workforce and – you think you have any way, but don’t judge a book by its cover – I would suggest getting this policy in place as a preventive measure anyway, just in case you do have a problem in the future, you’ve got something to turn to straightaway and you know what you’re doing.

I like to see a program of awareness for your staff, very much like mental health issues. I like to see an awareness day where all your staff are aware so we can all spot the signs. I’d like to see management train and handling issues and also recognizing misuse.

If you’re getting lots of near-misses with accidents or people nearly crashing their car, you might want to look in-depth and intricately at those people that are involved in the near-misses.

What we would also like to see is proper, pure induction training and that people are trained to give proper induction training where all of this is covered and people sign to say they’ve understood it. It’s not a bad idea to have a list of local contact advisory centres as well for reference for you.

More organisations are having policies on drugs and alcohol; more organisations are including screening and testing. Drug screening or testing is a sensitive issue because of the many employment implications involved. Securing the agreement of the workforce to the principal screening is essential, except in cases of pre-employment testing, partly because of the practical and legal issues involved.

Any clients listening to this today, we’ll help you with all of this. Screening can be used in the process for job applicants. Remember that. Screening can be used during employment and routinely. I would screen after a near-miss accident and also when an accident has taken place. Also, if I’ve helped somebody with any addiction, I would put it into writing as part of an agreed aftercare program.

Things to consider, though: how much will the screening system cost; who are you going to ask to do it; what type of testing is needed; how are the test samples collected; are they kept secure and to assure they cannot be tampered with; and what action are you going to take if a positive result is given?

One thing you’ve heard me talk about today is the Employee Assistance Program. Remember, early intervention is crucial. That’s with sickness, absenteeism, and addiction. With an Employee Assistance Program, the employee receives expert advice and support by accredited counsellors, GPs and nurses. It’s completely confidential. The results vastly improve productivity and lower your sickness absence records.

An employee, if you offer this service, feels valued and cared for, and feels they have an outlet to discuss problems that are personal to them. It is 24 hours, 7 days a week, and that’s the access to accredited counsellors who are always available when the employee is. The employee can speak to the same counsellor more than once, and if needed, have eight structured sessions of face-to-face counselling. Many times people have addictions but there’s a root problem to why they are addicted to something in the first place. So eight structured sessions of face-to-face counselling straightaway can help that person get to the root of their issue. Sometimes it’s more effective to actually discuss face-to-face issues rather than over the phone.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – this is regarded as the most effective method of counselling. There is currently a 12-month waiting list on the NHS for this service. This is accessible with an EAP program.
  • Online health portal – which gives them unlimited access to emotional support, video content, fitness videos, and over 200 easy-to-read and understand health assessment fact sheets.
  • Expert Help – it provides expert help and support to employees. You can be secure in the knowledge that the advice that the employee receives is correct and won’t have an adverse effect on the desired outcome. It demonstrates a strong duty of care from the employer to the employees within the organisation. It’s also used as evidence if there is a tribunal.
  • Staff Retention – an EAP makes the employee feel valued by the organisation and it has a positive effect on staff retention. An Employee Assistance Program can be used in performance management meetings as a reliable source of the help and support available. It does ultimately take responsibility away from the business owner, manager or HR to have to try and deal with any personal problems that they might not feel comfortable or confident dealing with.

I’ve listed some websites here for you to write down. These slides will be uploaded later on to YouTube. If you’ve got somebody within your business that might be considering quitting smoking, they’ve got a problem with gaming and gambling, there are young people that you’re concerned about, I’ve put only a couple here because I’ve got different people from different areas and different services in different areas of the country, but if there’s anybody, there is some guidance on there.

If you’ve been affected by anything that I’ve spoken about today and you would like some off-the-record advice, I have a duty of care to the people that I advise and I am very confidential with information that I handle, obviously, as I have an agreement with my employer. I’ve included my email address here. So, if anybody is experiencing problems and they’d like any help, I can refer you to some support people out there.

If I’ve got employers, HR listening to me today and you would like more advice or more support or more help and you’d like to know what Peninsula does and how we are always helping employers, managers and HR on a day-to- day basis, contact me. It’s me that it comes to. Nobody has access to my emails except for me. So, mailto:amanda@peninsula-uk.com comes to me, the person on the webinar today.

If you’d like some free advice, contact me. If you’d like me to speak at any events that you’re hosting, I speak for free as my company supports me and pays my wages. Always remember to quote webinar 55 in any correspondence. If you’ve missed anything I’ve spoken about today, these slides will be uploaded to YouTube later on.

I hope that I’ve helped you today with this webinar. It’s been a very interesting webinar. I can speak on this subject for literally a whole week. I’ve tried to condense as much information as possible for you so that it’s useful for you today, and I hope you’ve found it handy.

Thank you very much for listening to me. I hope to speak to you again soon. It’s goodbye from me.