A drug addict in your employ?

September 14, 2016



The problem is insidious and ever-present. It can be as obvious as the 20-something new recruit in accounts still coming down after a 48-hour alcohol and ecstasy binge, or as subtle as the long serving elderly lady in accounts, quietly spaced out on codeine and other opiates.



Drugs in the workplace. Ask almost any employer, manager or business owner – and not one will tell you the two should ever appear within the same context. However, the plain and simple fact of the matter is that drugs are a hard and fast reality in today’s world.



As the debate for marijuana as a potential pain management medication rages on alongside perhaps one of the oldest drugs known to mankind, alcohol, the lines are becoming blurred. In certain work environments, where health and safety is a priority, the issue of drugs and alcohol is non-negotiable. Employees are regularly and voluntarily tested for both and accept this as a mandatory condition of employment. However, what about those companies or designations that don’t necessarily have a set policy but expect peak performance regardless?



The fact is that no employer will tolerate a negative impact on work performance based on an employee’s “personal problems” or “recreational behaviour”. So how does one fairly deal with suspected drug abuse without making false accusations or infringing on an employee’s privacy.



Take note…

The issue is not always as clear cut as looking for lapses in work performance. Sometimes employees exhibit other unusual behaviour. Sudden changes in moods and appearance, problems maintaining relationships with colleagues and clients, as well as moodiness and defensiveness.



Document changes…

At some stage, when you choose to confront the employee you should be able to point out specific situations or scenarios in which the employee demonstrated a sub-standard performance, or seemed to be under the influence.



Consult an expert…

If you decide to take action either against or to assist an employee, you have to know where you stand with the law. You may choose the services of a labour law expert or perhaps a councillor from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.



Approach the employee…

Approach the suspected employee with a list of evidence and ask for their views. At this point you can choose to ask the employee to take a test or warn them that another incident will result in immediate testing.



Once you have the facts…

Now you need to present a plan. The employee must either cease the behaviour and if they are uncomfortable should seek professional help. If they are keen to do so with the employer’s assistance, then the method is entirely at the employer’s discretion.

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