Category Archives: Alcohol

Are Legal Highs a Workplace Issue?

DrugsSUMMARY: Use of legal highs has increased recently – how can employers manage this in the workplace?

The increase in the use of legal highs is now widely publicised.  Given this increase, the reality is that some employees may be at work under the influence.  This could present employers with two main problems: impaired employee performance; and serious health and safety implications for both the employer and the employee.

Whilst some employers may dismiss this issue on the basis it is unlikely to be a significant concern for them, the following points are worth noting when deciding whether to be proactive:

  1. Many so called “legal highs” are actually illegal.
  2. The drugs can have the same effects on users as some more traditional illegal substances.
  3. During 2014 in England, such drugs were implicated in 129 deaths.
  4. Legislation is currently going through Parliament to ban the supply of these drugs.

We would therefore recommend the following action points for employers:

  1. Update policies – consider how this issue can be covered in alcohol and drugs policies.  Employers should have clear rules about coming to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol and about taking drugs or drinking at work.  Legal highs can be treated in the same way as other drugs would be.  If policies are unclear, this is the time to update them.
  2. Remind – remind employees attending work under the influence of drugs that the use of legal highs at work is banned and ensure that they are aware of relevant policies and the potential sanctions for breaching these policies.
  3. Educate – educate staff and line managers on the signs of drug use, what to be aware of and the action they should take.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this employment law article or if you would like an alcohol and drugs policy please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

On the 7th Day of Christmas…

7th Day of ChristmasOn the 7th day of Christmas my employee said to me… “I’ve had too much to drink at the Christmas party.”

Many employers celebrate the festive season by providing alcohol for employees at the Christmas party. It is easy to forget that in this season of good cheer employment law still applies and if alcohol is to be served at a work event, employers should consider the following to manage any potential legal risks:

  • Having a policy in place setting out the standards of conduct expected at work social events and the consequences of breaching the policy. The policy should be brought to the attention of all employees prior to any Christmas party.
  • Ensuring that the event is as inclusive as possible to avoid complaints of discrimination. Non-alcoholic drinks should be available for employees who do not drink alcohol for religious or other reasons.
  • Keeping an eye out for younger members of staff as employers cannot serve alcohol to under 18s. This is becoming a more relevant consideration as the number of apprentices increase in the workplace.
  • Having the party at a licensed venue. Whilst this will not entirely absolve the employer from its duty of care to its staff, the venue owner will be responsible for serving the alcohol.
  • Ensuring that the health and safety obligations towards staff are satisfied. Employers need to consider how those who are worse for wear from excessive drinking will be managed and who will deal with this, particularly if there is a free bar. It may be preferable to limit the amount of alcohol that can be consumed and make non-alcoholic refreshments readily available.
  • Making clear what the arrangements are in relation to lunchtime events if alcohol is to be served where employees may be returning to work in the afternoon. Does this provide a health and safety risk for example in a factory setting, or a reputational risk in a customer facing environment?
  • Providing food and entertainment, which can be a distraction to those who may otherwise spend the evening propping up the bar.
  • Reviewing the arrangements for staff to get home safely. There should importantly be a zero tolerance message about drink driving.
  • Taking prompt action if there are conduct issues to be dealt with after the event. This applies equally if complaints are made by employees about harassment… more about this on the 8th Day of Christmas.

This guidance equally applies to other corporate social events at other times of the year.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

When The Office Party Packs a Punch….

Xmas PunchSUMMARY: MBNA Limited v Jones considers the issue of consistent treatment in relation to dismissal where employees are involved in the same misconduct incident.

The office Christmas party season is looming and no doubt plans will already be underway for staff to be able to celebrate the end of the year together; the party season will also be a great opportunity to thank staff for their hard work during 2015.

Undeniably an office party can boost morale. Improved morale can be beneficial to the business but employers are more aware than ever of the potential pitfalls that can arise from their generosity. Previously well behaved employees can become uninhibited and reckless after consuming too much alcohol, forgetting that the same standards of workplace behaviour need to be adhered to at work functions or social events.

How would you deal with an employee who punches a colleague at the office social event? Dismissal will usually be reasonable for this type of behaviour, even if it occurred outside the workplace. Here’s the twist though, the victim subsequently sends threatening texts to their assailant. Would you still dismiss the assailant? Would you also dismiss the victim?

Many employers are aware of the need to treat employees consistently when it comes to dismissal. Otherwise, the dismissal could give rise to a costly unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal.

In the recent case of MBNA Limited v Jones, the Employment Appeal Tribunal had to consider the scenario described above and whether the dismissal of the assailant was unfair due to inconsistent treatment; the victim was only given a final written warning. The employer was found to have acted reasonably when deciding to dismiss the assailant as the leniency shown to the victim was irrelevant. The justification for this conclusion was that it would have been perverse to have treated a deliberate unprovoked punch as sufficiently similar to the texts subsequently sent as a response to being hit.

Recommendations for dealing fighting and violence in the workplace

When dealing with disciplinary issues and particularly those relating to fighting and violence, employers should be mindful of the following:

  • Ensure that employees know the type of behaviour which is unacceptable in the workplace; violent behaviour should be prohibited. Make it clear that conduct rules are equally applicable at work related functions and social events, even if off site.
  • Whilst it may be tempting to take short cuts where violence is involved and move straight to dismissal without further enquiry, always follow the Disciplinary Procedure. A thorough investigation is essential, particularly where a number of employees are involved in the incident.
  • If considering dismissing only some of the individuals involved, ensure that the difference in treatment can be justified. In the case described above there was a clear distinction.
  • When considering whether dismissal is an appropriate sanction, take into account long service, previous good conduct and provocation.

Case

MBNA Limited v Jones UKEAT/0120/15

Contact details

If you would like advice on any of the issues raised in this article, please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172  93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

World Cup 2014… what should employers do to prepare?

With just a few days to go before the World Cup kicks off, if they have not done so already employers should be considering the potential effects of this latest major sporting event on their business.  The main issues for employers will be requests for annual leave, sickness absence, and website use during working hours.

What can employers do to prepare?

  • Decide on a policy for dealing with annual leave requests.  If the normal holiday request procedure is to apply, employers should remind employees of this.  If new procedures are to be put in place temporarily, highlight these to employees in good time and ensure that they are applied consistently.
  • Remind employees of the absence notification/management procedures and the potential that they could be subject to disciplinary procedures if they are not genuinely sick but provide sickness as the reason for their absence.  Absence levels should be monitored during this period to identify particularly high levels of sickness absence or even post match hangovers.
  • Flexible working may be a consideration, allowing employees to come in later or finish sooner but agreeing when this time can be made up. Employees should also be permitted to swap shifts. This approach should be applied consistently and employees should be made aware that any change to their normal working arrangements should be agreed in advance.
  • Allow staff to watch the television or listen to the radio in a communal area.  This could offer an alternative to employees tempted to either “pull a sickie” to watch the games or to view them at work on the internet.
  • There may be an increased use of Social Media such as Facebook or Twitter or websites covering the World Cup. Employers should ensure that they have a clear policy regarding web use setting out that monitoring will take place, what use is permitted and what the likely sanctions are for a breach of the policy.
  • Whilst watching a match some employees may enjoy a drink or two. Employees should be reminded that if they are found to be under the influence of alcohol or drinking at work, they will be subject to disciplinary action.  Any no alcohol policy should be clearly publicised.

In summary…

In aiming for business continuity, it makes sense for employers to be:

  • Flexible – in altering working hours to accommodate viewing.
  • Clear – in relation to expectations of leave requests, absence and performance.
  • Communicative – discuss these matters with employees as soon as possible and continue to remind them of policies.
  • Fair - in particular with respect to the way in which requests for time off are dealt with.

Finally, we would emphasise that employers should ensure consistency in their treatment of employees.

Contact Information

If you would like any further advice on absence management or disciplinary procedures please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.