Labour Attorney Johannesburg

The Importance of Having a Clear Policy Regarding Alcohol Abuse at Work

If your business is located in Johannesburg and you need advice on the correct procedures to follow in dealing with drunken employees at work, we recommend speaking to our team.

Various factors must be taken into consideration, such as whether it is a first-time offence, what the nature of the employee’s job is, whether the employee has an alcohol problem, and whether the drinking affects colleagues and job performance.

You may find that after dismissing the employee, the dismissal was indeed unfair. Getting professional legal guidance from an experienced labour attorney in Johannesburg can help to prevent a situation where you have to reinstate the employee, even though the employee is clearly incapable of performing their duties safely.

Indeed, it is your responsibility to prevent alcohol abuse in the workplace, and you must ensure that employees don’t start work if they are intoxicated, especially if they work with heavy machinery, dangerous substances, or have to transport people or goods.

Following the correct procedure is essential when dismissing an employee for alcohol abuse at the workplace, so for this, we recommend speaking to our labour attorneys in Johannesburg.

Before you charge the guilty employee, you need to ensure the correct formulation of charges. Consider other factors, such as whether or not the employee only smells of alcohol or clearly acts intoxicated. Have you tested the employee using a breathalyser and according to the correct procedures? If the employee was above the limit, did you subject the employee with their consent to a blood test, according to the correct procedure and by the required qualified person?

Keep in mind that being above the limit doesn’t make the employee intoxicated. In order to prove that the employee is intoxicated, you need to be able to prove that the employee’s ability to perform his/her duties safely has been impaired. The breathalyser results cannot be taken as conclusive. There must be enough evidence to support the charge of intoxication, which includes symptoms of being intoxicated, such as red eyes, slow or impaired speech, and physically being unable to perform duties, etc.

As our labour attorneys in Johannesburg will explain, you also need to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding being under the influence at work. In addition to following the correct procedure for establishing the level of intoxication, you need to consider the nature of the task that the employee must perform. Alcohol use will make a heavy-machine operator unfit for work, even if just slightly intoxicated, and likewise, a pilot cannot operate a large plane if slightly under the influence. However, a secretary may still work fine and without endangering the lives of others if she is under the influence of alcohol.

It remains your responsibility to ensure that machine operators, and the people responsible for the safe transportation of goods or people don’t commence work while under the influence. As such, you must have procedures in place to prevent them from starting work under the influence. You will thus charge the drunk or intoxicated worker for reporting for duty with more than the allowed (according to your policy) level of alcohol in his or her blood.

It is furthermore essential to communicate your policy on alcohol use and the level of tolerance to employees. They must understand it and must know what sanctions they face, should they breach the rule. Our labour attorneys in Johannesburg can assist you in drafting a clear policy regarding alcohol abuse and intoxication while on duty. If you have a clear policy that states zero tolerance and dismissal for having more than 0% alcohol in the bloodstream, then you will not need to be able to prove that the employee was drunk on duty.

Also get assistance from our labour attorneys in creating a clause in the employment contract that allows you to test employees for intoxication.

Contact us on (011) 234 2125, should you need advice from our labour attorneys in Johannesburg regarding the drafting of a policy on alcohol use at work, and which procedures to follow in dealing with the issue of intoxicated employees.


NB: this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You are advised to consult with us before using/relying on this information. The information is relevant to the date of publishing.

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