Alcohol affected employees


An employer’s OHS obligations take precedence when an employee shows up at work under the influence of alcohol, but a regime that combines a clear policy, counselling and discipline ensures best practice, according to leading workplace lawyer, Michael Tooma.

Employers have an overriding duty to eliminate them from your workplace to make sure their safety and that of other workers, when employees show indications of intoxication, says Tooma.

But where safety hazards aren’t clear there are sensible HR grounds to take actions, he says, and managers don’t need to wait for evidence the individual’s work is impacted.

Risks can possibly flow from an impaired worker providing guidance to a customer, dealing with customers or making choices within their work, he says, “so the company must be cognizant of that and handle those risks accordingly”.

“An employee must be fit for work, which’s an obligation that’s in the core of the contract of employment. When an employee fairly certainly is considerably impaired by alcohol, say even after lunch, the company can begin some disciplinary actions in relation to that, and apply the position they must be appropriate to do work.”

|”>The process is understood by employees and workplace alcohol tests should just be conducted where they’re certainly provided for in a workplace policy, Tooma says.

“Whether or not that policy requires testing relies upon the context. If it’s a heavy industry where security hazards are apparent, later that warrants a testing regime, but in any event, definitely a prohibition on being happy wheels impacted by alcohol is really a minimum when it comes to what a policy must have.”

It is considerably harder to discipline an employee for being alcohol-influenced at work with no policy set up, he says.


A “best practice” strategy, he says, unites a policy, counselling and disciplinary options in the event the behavior is duplicated.

“Best practice actually mandates that sort of escalation, so you’re not catching within a disciplinary regime a man who might have an addiction, without affording them an appropriate chance to rid themselves of that addiction and reach the center of the difficulty.”

Help culture crucial

Based on health and wellbeing adviser Chris Parker, booze is infrequently taken seriously as a workplace problem unless it results in an injury or death.

He says employee assistance programs (EAPs) are significant, but employers can do more.

He told Labour Solutions Australia that employers should search for warning signals of alcohol dependence and motivate workers to find aid.

Line managers are generally illequipped to cope with requests for assistance, he says, so employers must supply “multiple routes to multiple kinds of aid”.

“Engaging a support worker who’s not involved in line management but has the potential to guide supervisors and encourage workers to request help after which provide practical support through the procedure can make the EAP more powerful,” he says.

“Be ready to provide the individual time off for counselling,” he says, “and be aware that, for a while, they may be a long ways from the model worker.”


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Labour Solutions Australia Pty Ltd specialises in temporary, permanent and outsourced workforce solutions with a strong focus on Food Processing, Civil and Building Construction, Mining and Engineering, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing and Agribusiness staffing needs.

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