After a big night out, an employee arrives at work still under the influence of alcohol. How would you handle it?

While recreational alcohol and drug use generally happens outside working hours, it has a very real impact on your business. Employers are often left to deal with drops in productivity, spikes in sickness absence, and, potentially, increased odds of job-related accidents.

Take action to keep your team at the top of their game. 

Your legal responsibilities

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are legally required to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees, as far as reasonably practicable. If an employer knowingly allows an employee to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, placing others at risk, they could be prosecuted.

Employees also have a duty under the act to take care of themselves, as well as other people who could be affected by the work they do.  

Similarly, in line with the Road Traffic Act 1988, drivers of road vehicles must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol whilst driving or when in charge of a vehicle.

Screening and testing

Many companies use screening and testing as a way of controlling drug and alcohol issues.

This can be used in a number of ways:

  • During selection process for job applicants
  • Testing all or part of the workforce routinely, occasionally or randomly
  • After an accident in which there is evidence the company drug/alcohol policy has been contravened
  • General monitoring, e.g. employees reporting to work under the influence of alcohol from the previous night

In order for a screening and testing policy to be successful, employees need to understand the purpose is to prevent risks to others and comply with legal obligations.

Staff must agree to the principle of screening in their contract of employment. This is straightforward for new employees, but existing workers have no legal obligation to agree to changes in their terms and conditions. If this was forced upon them, the colleague could resign and claim ‘constructive dismissal’.

Furthermore, written consent must be received from each individual for the specific test to be conducted. If testing for both drugs and alcohol was required, then written consent would be needed for each.

Management training

To effectively control alcohol and drug misuse, we recommend training managers in three key areas:  

  • Recognising the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol dependence
  • Following applicable legislation and disciplinary procedures for dealing with the problem
  • Understanding available screening and testing methods

To learn more about available training to tackle drugs and alcohol in the workplace, please get in touch on 0345 257 4015 or email