Workplace policies on smoking, drugs and alcohol

Dealing with drugs misuse in the workplace


Drug misuse can be a serious problem for your employee and for your business. You have clear responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare of your employees. It may include the misuse of prescriptions drugs and the use of new psychoactive substances (also known as legal highs).

You might have legal liability if you allow employees under the influence of drugs to continue working where this places themselves or others at risk.

As well as improving safety, tackling drug misuse - or preventing it in the first place - also brings other business benefits. The benefits include higher productivity levels and fewer days being lost to illness.

Download a sample workplace drugs and alcohol policy (PDF, 114K).

Signs of possible drug misuse

Drug use is a very sensitive area and, short of catching someone taking drugs, it can be difficult to know when there's a problem. Some of the signs of possible drug misuse include:

  • erratic behaviour
  • mood swings
  • poor time-keeping
  • increased sickness absence
  • change in attitude to work and colleagues
  • reduced productivity

It's important to bear in mind that these factors might have a range of causes. They don't always mean that someone is misusing drugs.

Confidential conversation

If an employee's behaviour is troubling then a confidential conversation may be the best way of finding out if there are any underlying problems, whether drug-related or not.

There are times where disciplinary action may be needed in response to drug misuse, eg where the safety of your workplace is compromised.

Where possible be supportive towards employees with drug problems. Often the best course of action is referral to the appropriate counselling and support services. For information on these services, see counselling and support for drug and alcohol misuse.