Labour Law Attorneys

If you are an employee or executive who earns above R50 000 per month, or if you have a strong case with outstanding merits, you may be eligible for our exclusive “No Win, No Fee” services (subject to qualification and terms and conditions).

Contact us today to see if you qualify.

Labour Law on Alcohol Abuse at Work

As an employer, you have the responsibility to ensure a safe and fair work environment. If an employee drinks on the job, he or she can endanger the safety of others. However, according to labour law, you cannot simply dismiss the employee for drinking on the job or being drunk at work.

The correct procedure must be followed in dismissing the employee, and you must have taken corrective steps. You must also consider the employee’s circumstances and whether it is their first offence. We strongly recommend speaking to our labour law attorneys before dismissing the employee.

Alcoholism is considered a disease, so you cannot dismiss an employee because they have a particular illness. This puts you in a predicament, because the employee’s ability to perform duties is affected, and the safety of others is a concern. It is a type of misconduct and must thus be treated accordingly, if it is not a regular occurrence. Our labour law attorneys will help determine what to do to ensure compliance with the Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and the Code of Good Practice as stipulated by the CCMA.

Factors to Consider

As our labour law attorneys will explain – you will need to consider various factors before dismissing the employee. One such factor is what the nature of the employee’s work is. Does the employee operate heavy machinery or drive vehicles? If the employee operates such machinery or vehicles, then it is certainly a serious offence and a more serious penalty applies, as opposed to an office worker being drunk at work after a Friday lunch date with a client.

Also consider whether the employee’s conduct is generally accepted at your workplace. If you, for instance, own a pub and clients buy your bartenders or promotion waiters a few drinks towards the end of the shifts on a regular basis, then the employee’s conduct is generally accepted practice. You cannot dismiss the employee if the other employees also drink at the workplace.

Does the employee’s action cause harm or the potential of harm to other employees, clients, or users of the premises? If so, then the employee endangers the safety of others and it is a serious offence. A person transporting passengers can certainly not be drunk while doing so. Likewise, someone operating the mineshaft lift must be sober at all times. Even being slightly intoxicated can cause the person to make a mistake and thus endanger the lives of others. If you are not sure which factors to consider, we recommend seeking advice from our labour law attorneys.

Once-Off or Regular Problem?

Once you have considered the above factors, you need to assess whether the drinking is a once-off offence or whether the employee has a problem. If the employee regularly drinks at work or comes to work drunk, then it certainly affects his/her ability to perform, and also affects relationships with colleagues and clients. This becomes an issue of incapacity, rather than misconduct.

If it is a once-off offence, then it is not a sickness and as such, it is misconduct. The employee may become violent or offensive when drunk, and struggle to perform job his/her duties safely.

Where the employee has an alcohol problem, you need to establish whether it affects his/her job performance, and the level of incapacity. You also need to assess whether the employee’s work conditions or situation can be adapted, or whether it would be better to provide the employee with an alternative job.

You also need to consider rehabilitation or counselling, as an alternative to immediate dismissal. You can initiate suspensive sanction as the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. We recommend speaking to our labour law attorneys regarding the correct procedure to follow if the employee is addicted to alcohol. Our labour law attorneys can also assist regarding the dismissal procedure to follow, if it is a question of misconduct.

Contact us on (011) 234 2125, should you need advice from labour law attorneys regarding alcohol abuse at work.

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.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top