December is here, and with that comes the holiday season, which often results in employees having celebrations involving alcohol and other substances, leading to the unfortunate event where they may be under the influence of alcohol at the workplace.

Alcohol policy:

A clear policy in which it states that the company has adopted a zero-tolerance alcohol policy. In this policy, it must be stipulated that breathalyser tests may be conducted on any employee at any given time. Other evidence, such as being unstable on his/her feet, inappropriate hostile/aggressive behaviour, smelling of alcohol, red (bloodshot) eyes, slurry speech and other tests, will also be considered and noted down.

Conducting the test:

When conducting the test, be sure to have a witness present for the test results and procedures to be accurate and fair. The person conducting the test must ensure that he/she has a proper test document in which all of the above-mentioned forms of testing are listed and a space on the document for further notes.

All employees must be aware of the company’s actions, such as disciplinary action and that their misconduct might result in a dismissal if an employee arrives or is under the influence of alcohol whilst on duty. The regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act must also be mentioned in the policy.

  • In SACCAWU obo Ntonga & another / A1 Fisheries [1999] 8 BALR 943 (CCMA) it was found unnecessary for the employer to prove how much alcohol had been consumed – only that liquor had been consumed.

An essential factor a company has to consider when dealing with any alcohol and or drug-related problems is the abuse thereof by an employee who might have an alcohol/drug dependency and/or addiction problem.

Therefore, employers must consider such instances by inviting employees to disclose their addiction (without persecution) and, where possible, to assist an employee in this regard.

Standard disciplinary sanctions may be applied when an employee refuses assistance or denies having a problem.

  • In Spoornet (Ermelo) v SARHWU obo Nkosi [1998] 1 BALR 108 (IMSSA), it was found that whilst the employee denied that he had consumed liquor, he refused counselling and rehabilitation assistance because he did not have a drinking problem. His dismissal was therefore found to be fair even on a first offence and with a clean disciplinary record. It was stated that if an employee denies that he has a drinking problem and refuses assistance, then it is simply treated as misconduct.
  • Keys/ GRI Wind Steel South Africa (Pty) Ltd – (2017) 26 MEIBC 8.37.8 also reported at (2017) 10 BALR 1046 (MEIBC), an employee acted in a manner that the employer found to be out of the ordinary, leading to the presumption that the employee may be on an intoxicating substance The employer tested him for intoxicating substances, and the result was positive. He was sent home and tested again after two weeks, which returned positive. The employer then followed the required steps, and the employee was dismissed. The commissioner found the dismissal fair because the employee ‘cried wolf’, by first denying that he had tested positive and then unsuccessfully trying to prove that he was seeking help.

Contact us on 0861 737 263 should you have any queries regarding employees being under the influence of alcohol at the workplace and guidance on assisting employees who indicate that they have a substance abuse problem.