Substance Abuse Policies – An overview – A simple solution?

Introduction Crisis

Some employers believe the best way to prevent substance misuse in their business is to test for drugs and alcohol, other prefer to wait for the ticking time bomb to explode!

More and more companies in the UK are randomly testing their staff for substance misuse. However many of these companies are testing their employees without the support of a credible human resource package or a clear understanding of the legal, data protection and human rights issues.

There is no realistic cost benefit analysis that takes into account the wide range of variables involved. Given the complexities of drug and alcohol testing, it is not a simple solution and will not necessarily combat misuse in an organization. Testing should be considered in organisations where there is a genuine need, e.g. safety critical organisations like construction and transport/logistics.

How do I develop a drug and alcohol policy?


How can substance misuse affect your business?

  • Employees under the influence of drink or drugs will only achieve 67% of their work
  • Drug misusers are 3 times more likely to injure themselves or someone else while at work
  • Many of the people who misuse drugs and alcohol are in employment and
  • 30% of people seeking help for drug problems are in employment.
  • 2% of the national UK workforce regularly use cocaine while at work.
  • Nationally the cost to businesses from alcohol and drug misuse is £21bn per annum
  • Substance misuse harms a person’s health
  • An individual may act or behave in an unsafe manner
  • Business productivity, performance, profitability and reputation are put at risk
  • You will be breaking the law if you knowingly allow illegal substance related activity to take place on your premises (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971)
  • Senior/Junior Managers, Supervisors, as well as the Chief Executive become liable if a person dies on your premises while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even more so if the company was aware of the individual’s predisposition to drugs and alcohol use (Corporate Manslaughter & Homicide Act 2007)
Source: Dept Work & Pensions.

What will it cost me?

There are three areas of potential costs that you face if you do not address the issues of drug and alcohol problems: –

  1. Measurable Costs – Increased sickness, poor productivity, poor quality of work
  2. Hidden Costs – Diverted managerial time, friction among workers, staff turnover
  3. Other Costs – Disciplinary actions, legal actions, health and safety implications

What is a workplace drug and alcohol policy?

A workplace policy is a formal statement of an organisation’s intent, clearly setting out the rules and procedures for dealing with the issue. Common policies include health and safety, sickness absence management and discipline. The policy should state how the organization aims to prevent substance misuse problems in the workplace, and, if they occur, how it will be dealt with and how they will treat an employee who may have a drug or alcohol problem. A policy should aim to support affected employees rather than punish them and encourage them to seek treatment, rather than lead to their dismissal.

What are the consequences if I don’t have a policy?

  •  Confusion among your workforce about company rules and procedures
  •  Key staff not equipped to deal with incidents as they arise
  •  Legal proceedings are more likely to arise if an employee is dismissed

What are the benefits of a policy?

  •  A clear understanding of your company’s rules on drugs and alcohol
  •  A clear definition of both employee and employer responsibilities
  •  A greater awareness in your company of the effects of drugs and alcohol
  •  Necessary procedures in place should problems arise
  •  Trained managers or key staff who have the skills to deal with problems when they arise
  •  A culture whereby employees are willing to acknowledge that they or a colleague has a problem

A policy is not just about your duties under Health and Safety or Human Rights legislation and the impact of substance abuse on your business, it is also about protecting your employees and your business.

How do I stand legally?

Criminal law can render a business and its directors and its employees liable to prosecution, fines and even imprisonment. Civil law provides employees with rights to compensation from their employees.

BlueKnight Drugs and Alcohol TrainingDrug Recognition Techniques Under the Influence at WorkDrug and Alcohol ResourcesDrug DriveDrink Drive

Tel: +44(0)7395 811 220 Email: