Alcoholism in the Workplace

alcoholism in the workplaceA problem faced by employers throughout South Africa is the member of staff who has a drinking problem. From poor work performance to cases of intoxication on the job, alcohol and any other narcotic substance (including recreational drugs) can cause severe losses of productivity as well as workplace accidents and damage to property.

If you have a member of staff who sneaks in a drink or two during his or her lunch break, or who is frequently late or absent for work only to arrive accompanied by the distinct aroma of alcohol, you will need to take the appropriate form of action. The specific steps you will need to take depend on how frequent the employee’s use of alcohol is and where it takes place.

Whether or not you are experiencing problems with staff members abusing alcohol, a good general approach is to include a rule on alcohol consumption in the code of conduct by which your staff must abide. Every member of staff should be bound by this rule, prohibiting any consumption of alcohol and narcotics on the premises. In addition, it should be stated that any member of staff reporting to work while under the influence of any narcotic substance (alcohol and/or drugs) will be guilty of misconduct. With this rule in place, you will be in a position to take disciplinary action against any members of staff who are drunk or under the influence of drugs while at work. Employers are required to observe members of staff and a breathalyser test should be administered. This also provides members of staff to prove their innocence if they feel falsely accused.

In general, a member of staff who breaks the above rule by arriving at work under the influence or consumes any narcotic substance while on company premises will be subject to disciplinary hearings. In the case of a member of staff whose work performance is suffering, and is suspected of being an alcoholic but who is not drunk at work, a different approach is called for. In this case, a meeting should be held with the employee regarding incapacity to do his or her job. If the reason for incapacity is drinking, he or she may mention this during the meeting and help can be sought. Failing this, the member of staff will be required to improve his or her performance, if dismissal is to be avoided.

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