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Managing Substance Misuse in Staff and Contractors

1. Introduction

1.1 Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the University has a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees whilst at work. A further duty is owed to members of the public, staff, students and others to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their health and safety is not affected or exposed to risks as a consequence of the University’s work activities. In accordance with the Act, employees have a duty to themselves and others affected by their acts or omissions. If an employee reports for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol they would not be complying with this duty.

1.2 The Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess the significant risks to health and safety which include those associated with substance misuse. These risk assessments will consider the scope of all work activities undertaken by the University (in particular any safety critical operations) in line with the University’s Health and Safety policies and procedures. The University must put in place suitable and sufficient control measures in order to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable.

1.3 This Policy for Managing Substance Misuse in Staff and Contractors (“the policy”) sets out how the University will manage substance (alcohol and drug) misuse by its employees and contractors in order to meet its health and safety duties. Students who are carrying out any form of paid work will be covered within the definition of members of staff / employees used throughout this policy when they are performing their paid work. The term employee and member of staff are used inter-changeably in this policy. The term contractor is used generically in this policy to describe non-employees working in the University under various contractual arrangements. This will include consultants, sole traders, contractors and sub-contractors and those employed by external companies working in the University, all through contractual arrangements overseen by Purchasing Services.

1.4 The University has no intention to intrude upon the privacy of members of staff, particularly in health matters, where their condition does not affect their conduct, work performance or work activities. The University must however, be concerned where health or behaviour impairs or is likely to impair the conduct or performance of its staff or impinges on the health and safety of others. Alcohol and drug misuse are nationally recognised as a common cause of such impairment.

1.5 Drug misuse is not limited to the prohibited class A, B and C substances. It also includes prescribed over-the-counter medication and any other substances where they are taken in such a way which impacts or may be likely to impact on the conduct or performance of its staff or impinges on the health and safety of others.

1.6 There are some roles within the University, which include the need to work with controlled drugs in controlled circumstances. Staff must be tightly managed when using controlled drugs for legitimate purposes at work, to ensure that all such substances are accounted for. In addition, given that the University has a responsibility for the care of its students, it is important that students are not put into a position, where they are exposed to risk or temptation to indulge in drug usage, due to the carelessness or actions of staff or contractors. For these reasons this policy covers a wider area than may be adopted in other areas of employment.

1.7 Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 all employees are legally obliged to report to their employer any work situation which could reasonably be considered to be a serious and immediate danger to health and safety which for example would include the instruction not to operate machinery or undertake any of their duties whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Contractors and other users of the site should ensure that they or their staff co-operate with the University by complying with its policies and procedures and not doing anything which may put others at risk of harm.
 

2. Clarification of the terms used in this policy

2.1 For the purpose of this policy the following terms have been identified and applied by the University. Where a Head of Department and / or line manager requires clarification on whether a member of their staff comes under one of these definitions they should seek and consider advice from a University Health and Wellbeing Advisor from the University’s Health, Safety & Environment (UHSE) service.

a. Substance dependence: the University follows the definition provided by the Royal College of Psychiatrists: ‘Dependence occurs when there is physical and/or psychological addiction and the person will have withdrawal symptoms if they do not use the substance. Their lives are dominated by getting and using the substance. People use many sorts of substances’. Substance dependence covers a dependence on alcohol, drugs and / or other substances. Generally throughout this policy substance dependence or dependency is referred to generically to describe all possible forms of substance dependency. Similarly the use of the terms ‘substance’ or substances throughout this policy refer to alcohol, drugs and other substances that may be misused and on which a person can develop a dependence.

b. Being under the influence of alcohol is defined by the University as: ‘Exhibiting signs of having consumed alcohol and / or to exhibit any form of impairment of their normal functioning as a result of alcohol use’. This includes symptoms and behaviours, which if three or more are present, could indicate a person under the influence of alcohol:

  • Slurring of words
  • Unsteady on their feet
  • Disorientated
  • Uncharacteristically over-friendly
  • Hostility
  • Mood extremes
  • Slower than usual reactions
  • Alcohol smell on breath
  • Eyes glazed

c. Being under the influence of drugs is defined by the University as: ‘Exhibiting signs of having taken drugs (other than medication as prescribed or over-the-counter medicines as intended and defined for use) and / or to exhibit any form of impairment of their normal functioning as a result of drug use’. This includes symptoms and behaviours, which if three or more are present, could indicate a person under the influence of drugs:

  • Poor coordination
  • Distortion in perception (time or space)
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow reactions
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Impaired short term memory
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Extreme or sudden changes in mood

Further evidence of someone using alcohol or drugs could also include:

  • Paraphernalia / equipment from drug use - syringes, needles, blood-stained cotton wool / hankies, small squares of aluminium foil or rolled up cardboard
  • Scorched tinfoil or spoons, ligature
  • Small mirror, razor blade and / or straws
  • Can or bottle with tubes
  • Small twists and squares of polythene, cling film, aluminium foil
  • Rolled up cardboard filters
  • Alcohol cans or bottles especially if opened

3. Scope

3.1 The policy applies to all members of staff (employees) of the University and also contractors where they are specified in the policy.

4. Policy statement

4.1 No employee / member of staff, contractor or other person under the University's management / that the University is responsible for shall, in connection with any work- related activity:

  • report, or endeavour to report, for duty having consumed any substance (e.g. drugs or alcohol) likely to render him/her unfit and/or unsafe for work;
  • consume or be under the influence of any substance (e.g. drugs or alcohol), likely to render him/her unfit and/or unsafe for work, while on duty. store drugs or alcohol for consumption at work e.g. in areas such as lockers and desk drawers; or
  • attempt to illegally sell or give drugs or alcohol to any other member of staff or other person on the University premises.

4.2 Members of staff must inform their line manager regarding any prescribed medication that may have an effect on their ability to carry out their work safely, and must follow any instructions subsequently given. Individuals under the influence of drugs which may cause drowsiness should not operate machinery or drive and / or undertake work involving for example, working in confined spaces or at height; electrical installation or maintenance work; and handling hazardous chemicals, lasers and microorganisms whilst on duty. Where members of staff need to take prescribed or over-the-counter medication, as a result of an underlying condition their line manager should consider all possible adjustments and action these where reasonable in line with the University’s Sickness Absence Policy

4.3 Any member of staff who is concerned that they may be suffering from problems associated with substance misuse or have a current substance dependence is encouraged to seek help and advice from their General Practitioner or a specialised agency (see list of local specialised agencies on webpage). They should declare such a current dependency confidentially to a University Health and Well-being Advisor from the University’s Health, Safety & Environment (UHSE) service or Head of Department, line manager or other appropriate senior University officer (see paragraph 7.1 below) as a matter of urgency. In this situation the University will subsequently provide all reasonable assistance as is necessary, managing absences for treatment and/or rehabilitation as any other sickness absence. Failure to co-operate with any assistance, adjustments or procedures put in place to help support safe working practices (including failure to continue with treatment) will render the member of staff liable to normal disciplinary or capability procedures. All declarations made under this paragraph will be treated confidentially. The University retains the right to breach confidentiality if a situation occurs where to not do so would be likely to place the member of staff or others at serious risk.

4.4 If the University has reasonable grounds to believe that a member of staff is dependent on a substance (or substances), it may require that member of staff to be referred for an occupational health assessment, which may include testing for the presence of alcohol or drugs in their body. The assessor will then provide the University with a report on the member of staff’s condition and advice regarding treatment strategy and their suitability to fulfil their responsibilities to the University. If it is shown that the working environment is contributing to a dependency problem, then the University will take all reasonable action to ameliorate such problems.

4.5 Someone whose substance dependency has come to the attention of their line manager, Head of Department or other University officers - possibly through difficulties at work - will, in the first place, be encouraged to discuss their substance misuse problems and also, if appropriate, be advised to seek medical assistance and treatment.

4.6 The University will regard any member of staff who accepts that they have a substance dependence and who is actively seeking help as having a health problem and will cooperate with them to enable appropriate help/treatment to be obtained, provided that they are fully complying with all treatment and monitoring requirements. In this situation the University will treat reasonable absences for advice and treatment for substance dependence as sick leave, provided the person concerned regularly informs the University of their progress and demonstrates commitment to overcome their dependency problem. The need for confidentiality will be respected. As part of this approach, the member of staff will normally be required to participate in a health surveillance monitoring programme involving random testing of their substance use.

4.7 If, owing to a substance dependence for which they are seeking help, a person’s performance at work/behaviour is suffering and this would normally result in action being taken under the University’s Disciplinary or Capability policies, such action may be suspended for an appropriate period during treatment. Should help be refused and / or treatment or monitoring is not fully complied with or, after a reasonable interval there is no improvement in behaviour and / or work performance remains poor, disciplinary and / or capability procedures will be resumed or initiated. Such procedures may result in the termination of an individual’s employment.

4.8 If, owing to the consumption of a substance, a member of staff behaves or carries out their work in such a way as to endanger themselves or others, prompt corrective action will be taken as necessary to prevent damage or injury ensuing. A line manager has a responsibility to send a member of staff home* or require a contractor to leave site* if they have concerns that they may be placing others at risk or not able to properly fulfil their responsibilities due to substance misuse. In this situation the member of staff’s disclosure of an alcohol or drug dependency will be taken into account, but it will not normally free the person concerned from responsibility for the consequences of their conduct. Disclosure and acceptance of a substance dependency and agreement to accept treatment will not, in itself, be detrimental to a member of staff’s general conditions of service.

5. Alcohol at work

5.1 Members of staff will be subject to disciplinary investigation if they are deemed by the University to be under the influence of alcohol (in line with paragraph 2b and section 2) during work time or whilst on University business. This may lead to disciplinary action which may include summary (immediate) dismissal, subject to the provisions of this policy on supporting staff who accept and seek treatment and monitoring for substance dependence (in particular paragraphs 4.7, 4.8 and 10.4 to 10.7).

5.2 It should be noted that a number of University staff such as electricians and other trade staff, technicians, security officers and porters carry out safety critical roles (such as carrying out electrical work, repairing appliances and other equipment, working at height, setting up equipment and handling emergency situations) for which the consumption of any alcohol may directly risk the safety of staff, students, visitors and themselves. It is therefore reasonable for managers of staff or contractors in these areas to apply a higher requirement than paragraph 5.1 – for example prohibiting the drinking of any alcohol in the workplace. Where managers are considering the introduction of this requirement for a group of staff for the first time, they should consult with UHS&E, staff concerned and the Trade Unions before implementing this requirement.

5.3 The University will take all reasonable steps to prevent members of staff and contractors carrying out work-related activities if they are considered to be under the influence of alcohol and unfit or unsafe to undertake the work as a result of alcohol consumption.

6. Misuse of drugs at work

6.1 Under the section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) a person commits an offence if they are concerned in the management of any premises and knowingly permit a person to supply a controlled drug or to smoke cannabis, cannabis resin or prepared opium on those premises. The University supports this legislation by expressly prohibiting the use of any illegal drugs, prescription drugs that have not been prescribed for the user or other substances that may impact on the behaviour and or performance of an individual at work. If any such incidents take place on University premises, in University vehicles or at a University function in addition to investigation under the University’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedure they will, where appropriate, be reported to the police.

6.2 Members of staff deemed by the University to be under the influence of drugs (in line with paragraph 2c and section 2), and / or possessing drugs at work and / or intending to distribute or sell drugs at work will be subject to disciplinary investigation. This may lead to disciplinary action which may include summary (immediate) dismissal, subject to the provisions of this policy on supporting staff who accept and seek treatment and monitoring for substance dependence (in particular paragraphs 4.7, 4.8 and 10.4 to 10.7).

7. Responsibilities of individual members of staff with possible substance misuse issues

7.1 Individual members of staff who know or suspect that they have a substance-misuse (alcohol- or drug-) related problem should seek help voluntarily from their General Practitioner or a relevant specialist agency. All members of staff have a responsibility under legislation to ensure they cooperate with anything implemented by the University and its staff for their health and safety. They must not do anything which may cause a detriment to the health and safety of themselves or others and they must do what they can to ensure they own wellbeing. In order to meet these requirements they are strongly encouraged to identify their problems on a confidential basis with a University Health and Wellbeing Advisor, their Head of Department, their line manager, a Human Resources Manager or other senior member of the Department of Human Resources. They may additionally seek support through the University’s confidential counselling services. They should not attend at work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

7.2 A listing of the relevant local specialist agencies (e.g. local NHS and voluntary agency services); is provided in the list of local specialised agencies.

8. Responsibilities of colleagues/members of staff

8.1 It is possible that a member of staff or contractor with a substance-misuse problem will come to the notice of colleagues or other members of staff through indications of inadequate or deteriorating work performance or behaviour. It is in the interest of a member of staff with a substance misuse problem to be offered help as soon as possible, as prompt action carries the best chance of successful treatment.

8.2 The first approach should normally be for colleague(s) to encourage the member of staff to recognise their problem and to seek advice, either through their General Practitioner, or specialist agencies and to inform a University Health and Wellbeing Advisor, their Head of Department, their line manager, a Human Resources Manager or other senior member of the Department of Human Resources in line with paragraph 7.1 above. If this fails, colleagues are encouraged to alert the Head of Department or line manager where there is a problem with work performance or otherwise approach a University Health & Wellbeing Advisor or other senior manager in the Department of Human Resources.

8.3 Where a member of staff sees a contractor, visitor or member of staff to the University campus behaving in a manner that may pose an immediate risk to University staff, students and visitors (e.g. driving erratically or carrying out safety critical activity apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol) they should report this directly to Security Services by dialling 666 (internal) or 01225 383 999 (external).

8.4 While reluctance by colleagues to take such an initiative may be understandable, past experience confirms that covering for neglected duties is not a kindness, and serves only to delay, or at worse prevent, an important intervention and successful outcome.

9. Responsibilities of the Line Manager/Head of Department

9.1 A Head of Department or line manager has a responsibility to require a member of staff or contractor to leave site* if they have concerns that they may be putting themselves or others at risk or; not able to properly fulfil their responsibilities due to substance misuse in line with sections 2a, 2b and 2c of this policy. All such incidents should be recorded on the University’s incident report form, a copy of which should be sent to the University Health, Safety & Environment Service.

9.2 The Head of Department or line manager who is informed, becomes aware (including through 9.1 above) or suspects that a member of staff is misusing substances should follow the procedures set out under section 10 below and seek and take advice from a University Health & Wellbeing Advisor in the University Health, Safety and Environment (UHSE) service and / or their Human Resources Manager (see HRM Contacts) or other senior manager in the Department of Human Resources as specified in section 10 below.

10. Procedure for managing staff with suspected substance misuse

10.1 Where the Head of Department or line manager is informed or becomes aware of the substance misuse problems of a member of staff, or has concerns that a member of staff may be misusing substances personally they should first contact:

  • their Human Resources Manager (see HRM Contacts) and / or other senior manager in the Department of Human Resources - where there are issues of conduct or performance by the member of staff or other staffing issues or;
  • a University Health & Wellbeing Advisor from the University Health, Safety and Environment (UHSE) service – where there are no issues of conduct or performance.

These University staff will provide specific advice on managing this situation including how to handle any meeting with the member of staff concerned. In some cases advice may be provided from both Human Resources and Health & Safety.

10.2 The Head of Department or line manager should invite the member of staff to meet with them on a confidential one-to-one basis. They may alternatively request that the Head of the University Health, Safety & Environment (UHSE) Service undertakes this confidential meeting. The Head of UHSE will do so where they determine that this would be appropriate. In this one-to-one meeting the Head of Department, line manager or Head of UHSE should:

  • raise their concerns that the member of staff may be misusing substances and their concern for the health and possible predicament of the member of staff concerned;
  • highlight the support available and the requirements of this policy and
  • urge the member of staff to identify any substance dependence to them and seek help as soon as possible.

A note of this meeting should be made and retained confidentially on the personnel file of the member of staff, held in the Department of Human Resources.

10.3 If the member of staff denies having misused a substance (or substances), the Head of Department, line manager or Head of UHSE should explain to them in the meeting about the University’s requirements for staff under this policy, such as never working under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs and the University’s arrangements to support any member of staff with substance dependence issues who agrees to receive help, treatment and monitoring. They should confirm that staff who work under the influence of alcohol or drugs and / or who possess or sell such substances at work will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary policy and procedure. Processes under the University’s disciplinary policy and procedure may be suspended for a member of staff found working under the influence of alcohol or drugs while they receive treatment where they have disclosed that they have a problem and agreed to comply with treatment and monitoring.

10.4 If the member of staff discloses that they have a substance dependency and agrees to receive help, treatment and monitoring, the Head of Department, line manager or Head of UHSE will organise a formal meeting under the University’s Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure to consider these matters. The member of staff has the right to be represented in this formal meeting as set out in section 11 below and the University’s Sickness Absence Policy and a Human Resources Manager or Advisor will normally also attend this meeting. The University will assist any member of staff who is dependent on substances to find out about and assess their problem and to obtain confidential counselling.

10.5 In the formal sickness meeting, the following points should be raised and explained:

  • that where the member of staff has confirmed that they have a substance dependency and wish to seek treatment, monitoring and support, the University will support this in line with this policy.
  • that wherever possible the University will offer support to assist a member of staff to cease their substance use.
  • that where the University is satisfied that the member of staff concerned is supporting this action, it will make available guidance, the provisions of the sick pay scheme, and withhold disciplinary action if possible, for a period of time.
  • that a health surveillance monitoring programme involving the ongoing random testing of their substance use through Occupational Health will be an essential element of the support to assist them to cease their substance misuse.

10.6 If there is evidence of a member of staff working under the influence of drugs or alcohol / substances and / or possessing (drugs in all situations and alcohol where it is for their own consumption at work) and / or selling substances at work, this will be investigated formally under the University’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedure.

10.7 If a member of staff is failing to perform their duties effectively as a result of substance misuse this should be dealt with under the formal procedure in the University’s Capability Policy and Procedure.

10.8 If the member of staff has disclosed that they have a substance dependence and agreed to comply with help, treatment and monitoring in line with paragraphs 10.4 and 10.5 above, this disciplinary or capability procedure should be suspended for a reasonable period to allow the member of staff to receive treatment. During this period however a member of staff should never be allowed to attend for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol / substances.

11. Representation

11.1 A member of staff has the right to be accompanied at formal meetings under the formal procedure above by a ‘companion’ as defined by the ACAS Code of Practice – namely a University work colleague or an accredited trade union representative. A trade union representative who is not an employed official must have been certified by their union as being competent to accompany a worker.

11.2 There is no right to be accompanied by a companion at meetings under the informal procedure although staff may seek advice on a confidential basis from a trade union representative before or after such a meeting. There may also be exceptional situations where the line manager, Human Resources Manager and the member of staff all agree for a companion to be present.

12. Procedure for managing contractors with suspected substance misuse

12.1 All contractors working on the University’s sites should adhere to this policy in that:

  • they should at no time work under the influence of alcohol or drugs and / or possess or sell such substances on the University’s sites or vehicles and that;
  • if evidence of such behaviour is found this will result in the University requiring them to immediately leave the University’s site(s)* and may result in the termination of their working and / or their contract with the University.

12.2 Where there is evidence that a contractor is working under the influence of alcohol or drugs and / or possessing or selling such substances at work, they should be asked to leave the site*. Where the individual contractor concerned is working through a contractor company, the senior management of that company will normally be contacted to manage this issue with the individual in line that company’s policies and procedures and to organise for a replacement. The University has the option of investigating the incident in line with its policies & procedures. Where there is concern with the actions of the contractor company or individual if it is a sole trader the University may take appropriate action under the contractor’s contract, taking advice from its Purchasing Services and University Health, Safety & Environment (UHSE).

* - Where a member of staff or contractor is thought to be under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs and is required to leave the University site, care should be taken to ensure that they leave the site safely. They should not be allowed to drive in this situation.
 

July 2013