The partner of one of our employees has e-mailed us to say that the employee is an alcoholic and I'd like to hear your thoughts on what to do with this information.
To give a bit of background - we have a contractual 'no drugs and alcohol at work' policy for all employees and they are subject to 'for cause' testing if we suspect that someone is under the influence of either. We also have a policy of assistance for those employees who tell us that they have a problem.
So the questions is could I do anything with this e-mail? I'm not sure that I could challenge him outright, as the e-mail could be classed as hearsay or untrue - or could I?
There have 2 incidents over the past couple of years, which I know of, where the employees behaviour has been irrational. The first he got into an e-mail slanging match with another employee who took out a grievance against him. This was resolved informally. Last month he got upset with another employee and sent another ranting e-mail. He has been spoken to by his line manager. I'm wondering whether we could link this latest incident in some way by talking to him about his behaviour in the tone and content of the e-mail and asking him whether all is ok at home and at work. Basically to give him the opportunity to tell us if there's something wron - your thoughts/
The message from the partner is not necessarily reliable and is certainly not evidence. Talk to him about the tone/content of his latest email as you say and give him the opportunity to unburden. Of course, he may choose not to. Do you have the opportunity to search his locker/desk? If he is truly an alcoholic then it is likely that he will have a supply of alcohol handy during the day. If you find some, then you have cause to test him. Involve your occ health provider. I had an employee who always had a bottle of spring water with him despite the fact that we had water coolers available. Of course, the bottle was prepared by him each morning with half water and half vodka.
First of all, try to find out if there really is truth to this accusation. And if ever that it IS true, does it affect how he does his job? Make sure that you don't make the him feel threatened. Here's a good book that I think will help you in your situation: http://www.depressionatwork.com -- The Dark Clouds at Work by Dr. Darryl Cross.
Let me know if it's ok for you. :)
In most employment scenarios if you think an employee is either under the influence of alcohol from the previous day, or more likely if the person is an alcoholic, has been drinking at work this is a health and safety issue, which needs to be addressed, as a person in the work place with function impaired by alcohol could endanger themselves, other employees, and of course is unlikely to be performing well, and so can damage the business. The action you take will depend on their job, for example if they were operating machinery or driving , you would almost certainly need to suspend the employee, while you investigate to prevent serious risk to safety. As you are notice that this may be a problem, imagine what you would say if someone was injured or killed. If the risk of such matters is less, it is still a health and safety issue, and needs addressing.
You should be wary of disclosing at an early stage where the tip off came from, as this could cause problems at home for the employee. You may want to gain as much information as possible from the spouse, so you can assess if it is a nuisance, malicious comment after a row, or in the background of custody proceedings, for example or a more serious disclosure. You should establish the partner’s motivation for the disclosure. However there is no problem with acting on the information if you believe it to be legitimate. The test for any disciplinary action would be essentially whether the employer had a reasonably held belief that the employee had been drinking, and if having gained information, you do, you need to investigate further.
In broaching the issue with the employee you should take care in the normal way not to pre-judge the matter, however care needs to be taken, as in my experience of dealing with such matters, the person concerned is often in denial about their condition.
Generally, you should be cautious of searching property unless you have good reason, and preferably have the right to do so in your contract of employment, or a widely accepted policy, or it can be a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, and lead to constructive dismissal claims.
Additionally, whilst addiction to alcohol is not a disability, being excluded from protection of the Equality Act, associated symptoms that result from it including depression can mean an employee is disabled.
If having investigated the matter in a sensitive and confidential way, you feel there is an issue, you can commence a formal capability process, and in some cases dismiss fairly (subject to the usual considerations and depending on the circumstances). Before dismissal, if the problem is unlikely to be a severe health and safety risk (which may be a matter for dismissal for gross misconduct), you may what to consider whether you offer assistance, such as counselling, together with monitoring, or requiring the employee to undertake regular testing, a period of leave to undergo treatment or other ways of assisting the employee to overcome their problems. Taking such measure, even if they prove not to work in the long time, is likely to make any subsequent dismissal more reasonable, and more likely to be considered fair.
VY – employment solicitor
Give him a chance once and try to be clear with him that he would be expired if he repeats the same thing in the office.... if he truly wants to be sincere in the work then he would throw them out if not just say good bye to him... After all you are not running a social service...
Just relying on that e-mail is not enough, create soome scenario, talk to the suspect remind him about the policy and investigate a little bit and if you find something fishy is going on, issue him a warning. As long as you do not have any proof/evidence you just can't do anything hard.
I don't think that searching the employee's desk will be of help. It will make the person more nervous and might lead to more serious problems with him.
I recommend that you talk to him and ask him to be honest. Ask him if he has any issues at home, or as a whole. You can use his last e-mail as reason for this conversation.
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