Cannabis and drug misuse at work, whether intentional or unintentional can harm the user physically, mentally and through the misuser’s actions, harm other people and the environment. Drug misuse can be a serious problem, not only for the misuser but also for the organisation where they work and possibly for their co-workers. As an employer, you could be breaking the law if you knowingly allow drug-related activities in your workplace and you fail to act.
You may wish to raise your awareness and that of your managers or supervisors on how to spot cannabis and drug misuse at work. Drugs can affect the brain and the body in a number of ways. They can alter the way a person thinks, perceives and feels and this can lead to impaired judgement and concentration, with a possibility of general neglect of a person’s health and well-being. This may influence poor performance at work, even when the misuse takes place outside the workplace.
Signs of cannabis and drug misuse at work which you might look for include:
❑ sudden mood changes;
❑ unusual irritability or aggression;
❑ a tendency to become confused;
❑ abnormal fluctuations in concentration and energy;
❑ impaired job performance;
❑ poor time-keeping;
❑ increased short-term sickness absence;
❑ a deterioration in relationships with colleagues, customers or management;
❑ dishonesty and theft (arising from the need to maintain an expensive habit).
Remember: all the signs shown above may be caused by other factors, such as stress, and should be regarded only as indications that an employee may be misusing drugs.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 an employer has to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of drugs to continue working and their behaviour places them or others at risk, you could be prosecuted. Your employees have an obligation to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do at work.
What if you can smell cannabis on an employee?
This might be a delicate situation which could affect the service you are providing and it is wise to approach with discretion directly with the individual. Always remember that a member of staff may smell of cannabis, but it doesn’t mean they have been smoking at work or just before they come to work. Cannabis lingers on clothes, body and breath for several hours, especially if the person has not showered before coming to work. The smell could be from the night before; but it can still be unpleasant for your other employees having to work with the smelly colleague!
As an employer you need to be checking that:
- You have a policy relating to drugs in the workplace? It is important to safeguard yourself, your employees and your clients/customers.
- Ensure that this policy is communicated to all staff and how you, as the employer expect your employees to operate.
- An employee is regularly attending work with a smell of cannabis, take them to a private place and inform them of your company policy on drugs, express your concerns and ask them for an explanation.
- Disciplinary action, upto and including dismissal, may be appropriate and should be treated confidentially, in a non-judgmental manner.
If the use of drugs affects the employee’s ability and proper performance of their duties, action needs to be taken.
How to Tell an Employee You Suspect them of Cannabis and Drug Misuse at Work
How to tell someone they smell of cannabis or you suspect they are misusing drugs is probably the job dreaded most by managers, even more so than telling people that they are redundant. It is a sensitive subject and challenging to address, but it is just as challenging for those individuals that have to work with the employee who smells of cannabis or is a danger to themselves and others in the workplace.
Address the problem, privately and discreetly away from other employees. Don’t think it will just go away. It may be a one off, but statistics would suggest that cannabis and drug misuse at work by an individual tends to be a regularly occurrence because of the addiction!
If you want to know what you do if you find a worker on drugs or smelling of cannabis, give us a call and talk through your options – 01706 565332
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.