What to Do if You Suspect Drug Abuse in the Workplace

May 7, 2015

What to Do if You Suspect Drug Abuse in the Workplace

It might not be the kind of thing HR has to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but suspected drug abuse in the workplace can be a really big issue, and it is often difficult to decide how you’re going to tackle it.

So if you suspect that one of your people has a drug addiction, or is using illegal substances at work, then you might find the following advice helpful.

1. Keep It Confidential

Substance abuse isn’t always as simple as a person behaving ‘badly’ – it can often be a sign of crippling psychological or physical addiction.

No matter how things might look on the surface, remember that employees with drug problems should be given the same rights to confidentiality and support as you would give somebody with a medical or psychological condition.

2. Make it Clear that You’ll be as Supportive as Possible

Not many people will admit to their employer that they have a drug problem – they will be afraid of putting their job at risk.

But although you may be forced to take certain actions if the law is very clearly being broken at work, you should make sure all staff are aware that you will do everything in your power to treat drug misuse as a health problem, rather than something that will lead to disciplinary action.

3. Avoid Dismissal

Dismissal due to drug misuse is normally a knee-jerk reaction that only makes the problem worse.

Not only does it do nothing for the individual, but if an industrial tribunal believes you have unfairly dismissed an employee due to a drug problem, without first attempting to help them, it could get you into trouble.

If a person’s job is safety-critical, then you should probably put them into another role while the problem is investigated.

4. Give Time Off for Treatment

If a person really needs to fix their problem before their work can continue, then you might be faced with a choice – hire a replacement, or give the person time off for professional treatment.

Normally it will cost you less to allow an individual time off sick while they recover, than it will cost you to recruit and train a new person for the role.

5. Encourage Professional Help

As a minimum, you should recommend that a person with drug problems pays a visit to their GP.

How Would You Approach a Drug Problem at Work?

Maybe it’s something you’ve experienced before, or maybe it’s something you’re worried about for the future. Tell us in the comments below how you would approach the situation – and for more information or advice, there’s a great document on substance abuse at work here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg91.pdf

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