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HR Services delivered as and when you need them

‘Tis the season to be merry?

Many of us are now well into the swing of the festive season, which, at work, often means secret Santas, Christmas lunches, and the infamous office parties.

Regardless of how you and your staff celebrate, most of us tend to indulge in one way or another during December. For the majority of us, those indulgences tend to be a few too many mince pies or New Year’s toasts. But what about when that indulgence spills over into, and affects, the workplace?

Of course, substance abuse, be it drugs or alcohol, is not just limited to Christmas. It happens all year round, but it’s no secret that this time of year can push people to excess for various reasons.

This can have a significant effect on businesses, ranging from lower productivity, to sickness absence, to health and safety issues – which can have serious implications for both the employee and employer if an alcohol related incident occurs at work.

So what steps can responsible employers take to look after their employees and their business?

–       As with so many issues, having clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with substance abuse is absolutely essential.

–       And then make sure that your employees know about these policies. Communication is key, and not just via an employee handbook. Employ as many channels as appropriate – be they the company intranet, noticeboards, or newsletters.

–       Depending on the nature of your business, consider a risk based testing approach. Blanket testing is more likely to generate a negative atmosphere.

–       Train your managers on how to identify and deal with substance abuse.

–       If an employee is identified as having a substance abuse problem, and agrees to treatment, then this should be treated in the same manner as any other long-term illness or capability problem, with the necessary support in place.

–       However, if an individual doesn’t want to recognise or deal with the issue, or repeatedly ‘falls of the wagon’, then it can become a disciplinary matter, which may ultimately lead to dismissal.

It (hopefully) goes without saying that any substance abuse issues need to be handled sensitively – supporting the employee in their recovery in a discreet manner, and taking care to avoid any form of discrimination (while substance abuse is not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, associated illnesses – depression and liver failure for example – may be).

As I’ve said previously, taking a holistic approach to the welfare of your employees has a range of benefits – including reduced absence rates and increased retention. The workplace provides an opportunity for early detection, intervention and support a range of issues, including those involving drugs and alcohol. Let’s make sure that we use that opportunity to help one another.

If you would like assistance with implementing or updating any of your policies and procedures, or support with dealing with substance abuse issues, please contact TurnstoneHR on 01229 615 280 or email us at for a FREE consultation.

“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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