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One of your employee's absenteeism is because of substance abuse? What now?

by , 17 November 2015
Absenteeism can cost your business thousands of Rands every year. It can also slow down production. So dealing with it is important to maintain effectiveness and efficiency.

But, before you can deal with absenteeism, you must understand the reasons behind what could be causing absenteeism.

So, what if you've discovered a possible reason for an employee's absence, namely addiction to alcohol or drugs? What now?

Well, the answer is not exactly clear-cut, so pay attention and read on...

What can you do?
You can't just dismiss an employee because of absence based on alcohol or drug abuse.
The reasons for this are because:
·        Some employees, and not all, who abuse alcohol and drugs are alcoholics and drug addicts;
·        Drug addiction and alcoholism are considered illnesses in South Africa;
·        Sick people are protected by law; and
·        The courts aren't happy when discipline is used to deal with illnesses.

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•    Absenteeism;
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What you'll need to do is establish if the absent employee is addicted or abusing the substance. This can be done with the assistance of addiction specialists, such as those from the SA Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction (SANCA).
If he's an addict, then treatment should form the foundation of your strategy. If he's not, then a formal disciplinary procedure might be in order.
It's very important for you to realise that forcing an employee to go for a drug or alcohol test isn't allowed. But if he voluntarily has one done, then you can use the results as evidence. Also, physical appearance and behaviour could be other signs of alcoholism and drug abuse. SANCA can help you and your managers identify any possible sings of alcoholism and drug addiction among your employees.
At the end of the day, this matter is complicated. So draw up a legally-sound policy which specifically deals with drug and alcohol addiction. Clearly describe it to your employees and emphasise that alcohol and drug addiction isn't necessarily an excuse for absenteeism.
*To learn more on absenteeism, subscribe to Labour Law for Managers.

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