I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas

Many workplace events at this time of year will involve alcohol and the antics commonly associated therewith.  Of course there will be some individuals who go too far and resort to substance abuse in order to maximise their enjoyment of the party season.

It is fine for employees to dream of a White Christmas, provided that the white stuff which is dreamed of is snow.  If however the white stuff which is dreamed of is an illegal substance, that is not OK.  Cocaine is drug controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

What does this have to do with employment law?  It is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit, or even to ignore, the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs taking place on their premises.  If you discover an employee taking drugs at an office Christmas party, be sure to take action.

However, a word of warning!   Where an employee is caught in the act taking an illegal drug it does not mean that the usual rules for disciplinary procedures can be abandoned in place of an on-the-spot dismissal.  That would likely result in a successful claim of unfair dismissal.

Employers should treat offences of this nature in the same manner as any other instances of misconduct.   The 3 stage process of suspension, investigation and disciplinary hearing should still be adhered to.

What about an employee who is convicted of drug abuse outside of the workplace?  They can surely be sacked right?  Potentially yes.  However, employers must still follow the necessary procedures and take into account relevant factors such as the nature of the job and whether the conviction impacts on the employer’s reputation.

A tip from the top: Keep your snow for the snowmen this year.

 Simon Allison
Partner – Employment Law

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