I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

I would imagine that the majority of work place Christmas parties will involve a drop or 2 of alcohol, and the shenanigans that comes with this.  Of course there will be some individuals who go too far and resort to dabbling in drugs 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.  However, if it is not, then this could spell trouble.  Cocaine is one such drug that is controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

So, what does this have to do with employment law, I hear you ask.  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, it is important that you take the appropriate action.

However, a word of caution!   Where an employee is caught bang to rights 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 followed to avoid being on the wrong end of a possible tribunal claim.

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.

For more information on misconduct please contact the Employment Law team at Blackadders.

Richard Wilson
Trainee Solicitor, Employment