An employee’s tendency to drink may not be sufficient reason for dismissal, lawyers have warned.
The warning follows BA’s decision to suspend 11 pilots and three cabin crew members for allegedly drinking in a prohibited period before flying. Channel Four’s Dispatches programme last month appeared to show members of staff drinking just hours before take-off.
Alan Jones, HR partner at law firm DLA, said, "Clearly if someone is in an occupation where safety is of paramount importance then drinking on or off the job is a major concern.
"But sacking someone because they drink too much is fraught with difficulties unless their contract of employment specifically states a policy on alcohol – for example, a prohibition on pilots drinking eight hours before they are due to fly."
Jones urged employers to look for regular patterns of absence to identify any underlying problems. He said, "Where staff are often off work, there is sometimes a pattern to the behaviour of a persistent absentee, such as failing to turn up for work on the Monday following a home football team fixture.
"Employers should have systems in place to monitor sickness absence and ensure sickness certificates are followed correctly and recorded."
He said requiring staff to take a drink or drugs test could prompt a challenge under the Human Rights Act.