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When, how and why can you dismiss a drunk employee?

by , 08 August 2016
When, how and why can you dismiss a drunk employee?Let's say one of your employees' returns to the office after his Friday lunch, drunk. What would you do?

• Fire him on the spot?
• Give him one week's notice and then he must be out of there?
• Give him a letter of dismissal first thing on Monday morning?

Did you know that if your employee's an alcoholic and you did any of the above actions he could take you to the CCMA? And you could end up paying a hefty compensation?

In South Africa, alcoholism is classified as a disease and you can't dismiss someone based on an illness. That implies that you can't fire an employee if he's an alcoholic or addict. You have to handle addicts like sick and disabled people, and treatment should be part of your strategy.

But you MUST take action! Here's how...

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Being drunk at work constitutes misconduct!

You can dismiss your employee.

But, you must have an alcohol company policy in place. And communicate it to all your employees. It must regulate the consumption of alcohol on and off the company premises.

Click here to get your hands on the sample policy and your Ultimate guide to workplace breathalysers.

Three steps you're legally obliged to take when dealing with an employee that's drunk at work

Step 1: Three factors you must consider when contemplating dismissal

When dealing with a drunk employee, your decision whether or not to dismiss him depends on the following three factors:
1.    Your work practice, e.g. what behaviour do you generally accept in your workplace.
2.    The nature of your business (e.g. an bus driver is subject to stricter rules and more serious penalty if he drives a bus under the influence, than a secretary who deals with office work).
3.    The harm caused to the employee and other employees, third parties. For example, a truck driver who's drunk and transports goods is a danger to himself, his passengers and other drivers on the road.

In Labour Law for Managers you'll find helpful information on:
·         How to draw up a policy on substance abuse, including a sample policy
·         Who to contact to determine if your employee is an addict or not

Step 2: Alcohol problem or once-off offence?
If an employee has an alcohol problem, this usually affects his work performance, his ability to do his work and his work relationships. An alcohol problem is classified as a 'sickness' in South Africa because it affects behaviour and performance. So you have to treat an instance where your employee is drunk because he is an alcoholic as a case of incapacity.

Misconduct on the other hand as a result of being under the influence of alcohol/drugs is usually a once-off offence. The employee might not be capable of performing his work safely, diligently and productively because he's under the influence, or he may become violent, abusive or exhibit offence behaviour of this. This would constitute an example of misconduct.
Continue reading for the last two steps you're legally obliged to take when dealing with an employee that's drunk at work
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A drunken employee is just one of the 200+ issues that Labour Law for Managers discusses. 
Labour Law for Managers covers EVERY ASPECT of the labour law and it will not only help to prevent expensive lawsuits that could cost your company a lot of time and money but also provide examples of sample agreements and letters. It covers a wide range of topics and includes helpful tips like...

·         The 6 vital steps you need to take to prepare for arbitration   
·         Your 6-step employment equity plan       
·         6 Benefits of a grievance procedure   
·         4 Factors to help you decide whether absence is unreasonably long       
·         12 Strategies to combat Internet and e-mail abuse in your company   

Discover how Labour Law for Managers can benefit you now…


Three steps you're legally obliged to take when dealing with an employee that's drunk at work continued…

Step 3: Treating incapacity issues the legal way

When you establish that a problem of incapacity is due to alcohol abuse, you must firstly ascertain:
·         Whether or not the employee is capable of performing the work;
·         The extend of the employee's capacity;
·         The possibility of adaptation to the work situation; and
·         The possibility of securing a suitable alternative work.

Secondly, investigate rehabilitation and counselling options as an alternative to dismissal. Especially if you know or suspect a dependency problem. You could also consider a suspended sanction at a disciplinary enquiry pending counselling and rehabilitation and the possible successful treatment of the problem.
Step 4: Treatment options. What the law says you MUST do
Did you know that your responsibility as employee is to offer your employer treatment if he has an alcohol problem? A range of treatment and rehabilitation options exist and can last from a minimum of 28 days up to three months. For full details on the available options and legal steps you must take in the case of incapacity click here. 
P.S.  The Ultimate guide to workplace breathalysers will tell you exactly how to legally carry out a breathalyser test in 9 simple steps…

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