What would you do if an employee stumbled into the workplace in a drunken state after lunch? Would you fire him, give him a letter of dismissal the next Monday, or give him a week’s notice to vacate his position?
While some of us may never have experienced this situation, drunkenness in the workplace is becoming common in South Africa. If you have the bad fortune to deal with an employee who abuses alcohol, you may be surprised to hear that firing the person is not as straightforward as it may seem. Here are several facts about drunkenness in the workplace as well as several suggestions that may help you if you find yourself in this situation:
Is Your Employee an Alcoholic?
According to South African labour law, alcoholism and other forms of addiction are viewed as illnesses. Therefore, you may not fire a member of staff who has a substance abuse problem for that reason alone. If the case reaches the CCMA you may end up paying a significant amount in compensation for firing a drunken employee on the spot.
While firing your member of staff is not a wise option, you are entitled to take action as an employer to resolve the situation. Since alcoholics are classed as ill people, your approach should be to work with the person and put steps in place that will result in the drinking problem being resolved. If the member of staff is unwilling or unable to stop abusing alcohol during work hours, a dismissal may be your only option.
Making Your Decision
Depending on the type of business you run and what standards you apply to your employees, drunkenness in the workplace may be considered a more or less serious violation of your company policy.
For example, if your staff member is a truck or bus driver it is clear that being drunk on the job is totally unacceptable. A drunk driver endangers his life and the lives of others and dismissal may be appropriate in this case. When you make your decision, consider the kind of work environment you are aiming to create and what you expect from your employees. If drunkenness is unacceptable, your member of staff will have to undergo rehabilitation if he or she wants to continue working for you.