Staff Arriving for Work Under the Influence

#HRFridayFact: Staff turning up unfit for work due to excess alcohol may be a risk to others an dealt with under your disciplinary policy

The festive season may give rise of incidents where staff turn up for work still under the influence of alcohol from the night before. We recommend that employers clearly state in their staff handbook how turning up for work drunk will be treated. Gross misconduct is justifiable, particularly if driving or operating machinery is part of the worker’s job.

Most employers strictly prohibit the drinking of alcohol during or before work. It unusual for even moderate alcohol consumption to be permitted, for example during lunch breaks; although some alcohol industry related employers might take a different view.

If a member of staff turns in for work and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, the employer should interview the employee to try to establish the employee's condition. Reasonable belief can be an adequate reason to send the employee home but if the incident is likely to escalate to a disciplinary that has potential to end in dismissal, the employer may want more evidence.

An electronic breathalyser may be a good investment for businesses that employ staff for whom driving or operating machinery is part of their main duties. To use it however there should be a clause in contracts or the Staff Handbook which enables the employer to breathalyse employees if they are suspicious an employee is drunk

If an employee is sent home, an investigation should follow with witness statements as part of a disciplinary process. Remember your duty of care, and don’t let your employee drive him or herself home.

Failing to take a robust stance with employees could potentially lead to a case of corporate manslaughter if a worker was allowed to continue working despite suspicion of being drunk. Remember, directors hold liability for this.

As usual, consistency is key. Anyone suspected of arriving at work drunk should be treated the same as anyone else suspected of the same.

For help and support with issues such as this or for a review of your company documents, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail

05 December 2017, 10:27