Dismissal drugs alcohol in the workplace
Its is surprising how many calls get from employees dismissed for drinking / doing drugs at work. Clearly an employee who is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at work will suffer from impaired judgement and may seriously jeopardize their own and other employees’ safety. This is a particularly concerning issue in workplaces where employees operate heavy machinery or vehicles. Nevertheless, presenting to work high on drugs or drunk, will may constitute a valid reason for serious misconduct and in turn dismissal. Dismissed drugs alcohol in the workplace should be compulsory reading.
Dismissed for serious misconduct
Being dismissed for serious misconduct is not good. What do you tell the next employer? i have a drug or drinking problem but I’m better now?. It can cause serious reputational damage that may never be remedied. The loss of the job in these circumstances the employer does not have to pay notice or long service leave. Some employees can loose a lot of entitlements, solely because they have had a big weekend or night. Jails are full of people who did not understand the consequences of their actions. We are not the moral police here, but trying to help you keep your job and at the very least be aware of the ramifications of your actions, that’s all.
There are a lot of issues associated with drug abuse in the workplace. Much like alcohol, it can lead to the same impacts such as absenteeism, loss of productivity, and workplace injuries or fatalities. Unlike alcohol, many substances can be abused whilst on the job without coworkers or supervisors noticing. There was very much a zero tolerance approach to drug or alcohol use or blowing a number or testing positive to use in the workplace. This resulted in instant dismissal with most employers not allowing any discretion as to the circumstances or length of service, or other mitigating factors in order for employees to keep their job.
Absenteeism and abandonment of employment
Approximately 1 in every 11 employees in Australia (9% of total workforce) struggled with a substance or alcohol use disorder in the past 12 months. This has increased with the stresses of the pandemic, increasing levels of depression and the uncertain economic situation. Absenteeism and abandonment of employment dismissals have increased 4 fold. We know this from the types and levels of enquires to this office. Also the search’s on Google reflect this as well
Workplace changes, drinking and drug use has increased
With the increasing levels of the casuals in the work force, contract workers in the gig economy, people have the benefits of flexibility, but also a less formal regime which allows for drinking when it suit them. Working from home has see an increase in drinking levels. Don’t have to drive home, no one can smell my breath, no one can see me, or I’m bored states the employee. Male-dominated professions and businesses often have higher rates of alcohol-related problems than female-led ones. But in the era of diversity no one wants to recognize this and deal with it on its individualistic merits.
What we have found over the last year or so, is the increase focus on sexual harassment in the workplace, and so it should be. However what we have noticed that there is increasing tolerance of drugs in the workplace as a greater percentage of employees participate in drug use. Some employers have adopted the culture of “we cannot sack everybody”. Some employers have now separated drugs into two categories, hard and soft drugs. Test positive to hard drugs you will be dismissed. Soft drugs we will talk about it. Who decides what’s in what categories nobody knows.
Employer drinks too much in the workplace
Having a manager or supervisor with a serious drinking or drug habit can make for a chaotic or a toxic work culture. Substance use and other forms of addiction can cause erratic behaviors and unpredictability in the person. This may fuel heightened anxiety and stress in the people around them. Having a potentially alcoholic manager or business owner can seriously affect your ability to do your job. This may come in the form of:
- Harassment and bullying
- Threats of dismissal
- Physical aggression, invading your personal space
- Property damage
- Disregard for boundaries (inappropriate behaviors’, sexual harassment)
- Forced to drink or participate in drug use with them
- Non payment or underpayment of wages when due, as the employer loses focus
Having an alcoholic boss not only affects your work life but can have emotional and psychological repercussions that seep into your personal life. Everyday you go to work you don’t know what the employer will be like. It’s a emotional roller-coaster of what is going to happen next. You may also feel concern or worry for your manager but aren’t sure how to help. You may want to get personally involved or you just want to get away from them. These people become very cleaver how to play your emotions when they know they have mucked up. They cast themselves as the victim.
What does the Fair work Commission say?
The Fair work is the peak industrial umpire in Australia. What do they say? Lets examine several cases for guidance as to what to do. If you have complained to your employer about their behaviour (you have excised a workplace right) and they have done nothing about your issue. Or they dismiss you for complaining you many be able to go to the Fair work by lodging a general protections application.
Do not be intoxicated at work
In Fair work Commission unfair dismissal case of Jurgen Rust v Farstad Shipping (India Pacific) Pty Ltd. A sea captain with 16 years’ service was dismissed following a random drug and alcohol screening. It indicated his blood alcohol concentration was over the employer’s acceptable limit. Although the Fair Work Commission found the dismissal to be harsh in the context of his exemplary employment record. Inaction by the employer to resolve an incident that caused the employee great anxiety and stress. It was held that breaching the employer’s alcohol policy was a valid reason for dismissal.
No drugs at work
In the unfair dismissal case of Harris v Meadowbrook Golf Club. The Fair Work Commission had to decide whether the use of marijuana of itself while on an employer’s premises and at work is a valid reason for dismissal. The Fair Work found that given the employees actions were unlawful. Namely possessing an illicit substance (cannabis) and possessing items used for taking drugs (a bong). This unlawful conduct undertaken on the employer’s time, and on the employer’s premises could provide a valid reason for termination.
Given the employee had admitted to engaging in the unlawful conduct, this was held to be a valid reason for dismissal. Whilst there were procedural deficiencies in the manner in which the dismissal was effected, given that the employer had a valid reason for dismissal and further information came to light after the termination that also weighs against a conclusion that the dismissal was unfair, the dismissal was held not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
Conclusion to: Dismissal drugs alcohol in the workplace
We are A Whole New Approach, we are not lawyers but Australia’s leading workplace advisors and commentators. AWNA is proud of the team and the outcomes we get for our clients. If you have issues call us, all casual employee rights, adverse action, forced resignation call us. Anything to do with the fair work, we can help you. Our services are confidential so if want to discuss dismissal drugs alcohol call us.
Call 1800 333 666, confidential, free advice. We work in all states
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