Substance misuse - employees

Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting.


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Q: I am a business manager with responsibility for HR in an academy. A member of supply staff informed me that the design and technology technician smelt of alcohol after lunch. I went to check and found this was true. When challenged, he freely admitted that this was the case and that it was his practice to have a beer every lunchtime and that he had been doing so since he was appointed a year ago. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) has said that this is not a child protection issue and has suggested that we reprimand him. What should we do?

A: There is a significant health and safety issue as the technician will almost certainly have been operating machinery and possibly supervising students while under the influence of alcohol. The school, it is hoped, will have an appropriate Substance Misuse Policy, which should typically include the following:

“You should not drink alcohol during the normal working day, at lunchtime, at other official breaks and at official work-based meetings and events. Drinking alcohol while at work without authorisation or working under the influence of alcohol may be considered serious misconduct.”

The HR company that the academy has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with should be contacted for advice immediately and an investigation will need to be carried out under the school’s disciplinary policy. You may also need to question the technician’s line manager and members of the design and technology department, to find out if other members of staff knew about this and, if so, why it had not been reported previously. There may be disciplinary consequences for them too if they have not taken action to ensure the wellbeing of the students by reporting the technician

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