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Warning: Ignoring your drunk employee could shut down your company

by , 24 December 2014
Lunch break just ended and all your employees are returning to work. You're standing watching them when Jake walks past you. He reeks of alcohol and you can see he's unsteady on his feet.

You're about to go after him, when you remember you're already short staffed today. So you turn around and leave it, hoping he won't cause any problems.

But an hour later, Jake stumbles off the edge of the scaffolding and falls to his death.

Right now, you're trying to deal with the accident at hand. But what you may not be thinking about is how much trouble Jake's death means for your company.

Because one drunk employee may cause your whole company to close down...

 
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Do you want to be fined, jailed or have a criminal record for life?
 
If an accident occurs in your workplace, and the person dies, you could be charged with culpable homicide, charged penalties of R100 000 or 2 years in jail! The CEO or Owner of a company is personally accountable for health and safety at work. 
 
 
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Here's why letting your drunk employee work could lead to a company shut down

 
If you knowingly let a drunk employee work, you're guilty of negligence. This is when you willingly put your employee in a dangerous situation. 
 
Now, if your negligence causes an employee's accident or death, he, or his family, can't sue you because COIDA protects employers against this. 
 
But this doesn't mean you'll escape all punishment. 
 
The DoL will investigate the accident to find out what really happened. During this investigation the DoL will find out that you knowingly let an employee work while under the influence. 
 
Because it's your responsibility to keep your employees safe, your duty is to send an intoxicated employee home because he can't work safely. 
 
Because you didn't do this, you're directly responsible for his accident. This is a gross violation of health and safety. 
 
Because of how serious this is, the DoL could completely shut down your company pending further investigation. 
 
On top of that, the DoL may charge you with a criminal charge of negligence. This means months, if not years, in court and possibly a minimum of two years in jail. 
 
As you can see, it's better to send a drunk employee home and be short staffed, than risk this kind of accident. 
 
But be careful when you deal with a drunk employee so you don't end up with an unfair labour case. 
 
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Are you stressed out about all your legal requirements?
 
Of course you are. You have enough on your plate already, and keeping up with paperwork isn't on the top of your to-do list. But unfortunately, it's part of your job because it's a legal requirement. And, you've answered 'YES' to at least half of the questions above.
 
 
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Here's how to deal with a drunk employee legally

 
The first thing you need is a zero-tolerance alcohol policy. It must clearly detail the procedures you'll follow if you think an employee is drunk and if you prove he is. 
 
Make sure all your employees read and sign this policy. 
 
In it, state that you'll:
 
- Breathalyse any employee you suspect is drunk; and
- Do a physical examination to look for unsteadiness, slurred speech and blood shot eyes. 
 
If the breathalyser test and physical examination prove your employee's under the influence, you must stop him from working. 
 
Include in your policy that you'll send any drunk employees home and discipline them. 
 
Just remember, you can't just fire an employee for coming to work drunk. According to labourguide.co.za, most CCMA cases where an employer fires an employee for coming to work drunk, end in an unfair dismissal verdict. 
 
Always deal with drunk employees immediately and in a legal way so the DoL doesn't shut your company down for negligence.
 


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