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Discover over 200 legal tips and advice that'll save your company time, hassle and money in 2013

by , 14 May 2013
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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 was an alcoholic and you performed any of the above actions he could take you to the CCMA and you could end up paying a hefty compensation?

But you MUST take action!

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 is an alcoholic or addict. Addicts should be handled like sick and disabled people and treatment should be part of your strategy.

3 Steps you are legally obliged to take when dealing with an employee that's drunk at work

Step 1: 3 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 3 factors:
  • Your work practice, e.g. what behaviour do you generally accept in your workplace.
  • 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).
  • The harm caused to the employee and other employees.third parties (e.g. a truch 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

Once you have contemplated these 3 steps you HAVE TO determine whether your employee's offence is classified as 'misconduct' or 'incapacity'. The next step is of great importance to avoid costly court trials.

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. An instance where your employee is drunk because he is an alcoholic should thus be treated 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.

How can I determine the difference between an addict and a once-off binge?

Signs that your employee has an alcohol dependency problem that you can pick up through visual observation include:

  •     Smell of alcohol on the breath
  •     Obvious changes/difficulties in speech
  •     Bloodshot/unfocused eyes
  •     Unsteadiness
  •     Aggression

Labour Law for Managers will give you more information on:
  •     indicators to spot a developing alcohol problem
  •     a checklist when dealing with absenteeism.

Remember, there's a fine line between misconduct and incapacity. Always investigate whether or not the employee has a dependency problem. If you find he has a dependency problem, treat it as an incapacity issue, not misconduct.

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
  •     The possibility of securing a suitable alternative work.

Your second step is to 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 exists 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.

Are you prepared?

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 - click here now.

The alphabetised index guides you on dealing with labour issues the legal way. It's packed with legal advice, tips, recommendations and information that are written in understandable English. Specialised checklists ensure that you haven't forgotten anything and sample contracts, dismissals, warning letters etc. will have you on the right side of the law no matter what. The Labour Law for Managers – Practical Handbook is 100% legal as it draws from the expertise of 29 experienced labour consultants and is checked by two independent consultants. The binder format allows you to include the updates that we'll send to you ensuring that you're up to date with the latest legalities even when the law changes!

Contact us today and be prepared

When reading Labour Law for Managers you can expect in-depth legally validated answers on the following issues:

  •     Medical certificates – Here's when they are required...       
  •     Paid sick – leave: This is how much you must grant your employees
  •     How a code of conduct will benefit your company
  •     The advantages of a probation period   
  •     Make sure you understand the correct procedure when dismissing a probationer   
  •     Is reference checking legal? Here's the answer...
  •     How the consequences of a protected strike will affect you
Click here now for all this and much, much more!

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