A recent survey by Royal and Sun Alliance, as reported in the Guardian on 30th May found that 1 in 6 workers admitted being under the influence of alcohol at work in recent months. Under 30 years old were the most likely to be affected.
Alcohol consumption at work or attending work under the influence obviously has a detrimental effect on productivity and can raise serious issues about health and safety.
Company disciplinary procedures should make clear that attending work whilst under the influence is likely to be regarded as gross misconduct leading to dismissal.
Even so employers must be careful how such situations are handled. The statutory disciplinary procedure must be followed as a minimum before any formal action is taken. Any incident should be investigated fully. If there is any suggestion that the behaviour arises from alcoholism as opposed to overindulgence then the case law suggests this should be treated as an illness, which will not normally justify dismissal unless the employee has been given a chance to get help and a warning to improve. In some circumstances, for example assaulting a customer while drunk, the behaviour will be so serious that dismissal will be justified. This is a potential minefield and with Unfair Dismissal damages capable of exceeding £60,000.00 it is advisable to seek professional advice before taking action.