One in Five Employees ‘Regularly’ Uses Drugs

One in five UK employees admits to regularly taking drugs, and a third suspect that a colleague may have a drug problem, according to new research that suggests the increase in the use of illegal substances may be starting to make itself felt in the workplace.

The study of 500 employers, from Crossland Employment Solicitors, found that just two in five firms (40%) have a drugs policy, and only 23 per cent have tested their staff for drug use.

However employers must have ‘good reason’ to justify testing their employees for drug use. Because of the intrusive nature of drug testing, you must have a good reason to justify a policy of testing staff, and should always consider whether there is a less intrusive means of monitoring employees.

As an employer you also need to exercise caution when dealing with employees who they suspect of using drugs. It is vital that you have a ‘sensible’ drug misuse policy in place. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty to ensure a safe place of work for their staff. With respect to substance misuse, this should include having clear rules about coming to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and about drinking alcohol or taking drugs while at work.

The Crossland figures are higher than official estimates of drug use. A Home Office survey in 2015 found that 19.4% of 15 to 24-year-olds had taken an illegal substance over the previous 12 months, and 7.6% had used a Class A drug. The Global Drugs Survey 2015 found that 31% of the UK population as a whole had used drugs at least once.

According to Crossland’s survey, 45% of employees who use drugs feel it has affected their work performance. A similar proportion (46%) say they are aware of potential disciplinary action for substance abuse, but another 35% are unsure of the exact grounds and consequences of their actions.

In view of your Health and Safety obligations, as an employer you are able to take action to deal with employees who use drugs outside of work in certain circumstances. If you need any advice on this issue, or dealing with your own employees, please contact us on 0118 940 3032 or email

Dealing with Disciplinary and Capability Issues

It is a mistake to think that performance problems, whether they be capability or disciplinary in nature, will simply go away or sort themselves out.  

Issues such as sickness absence, poor attitudes/behavior, failure to meet objectives and poor general standards of work must be dealt with appropriately and effectively as soon as they occur. 

In most instances and informal chat may be enough to solve the problem but if not then you have laid the groundwork for the formal disciplinary process to begin. 

 What to consider when planning your approach:

  • Do you want to conduct an initial informal chat or start with a more formal meeting? Is the employee entitled to be accompanied by a representative at the meeting?
  • What is an appropriate review/warning period?
  • If dismissal is a possible end result, are there any alternative work options available to the employee?
  • What acts of poor performance are serious enough to instigate a dismissal procedure?
  • If the issue involves bad attitude/behaviour ? is this a capability or conduct issue? What are the differences in approach to handling these issues?
  • What are the legal requirements of a disciplinary procedure?  Informal and formal meetings, formal and informal warnings, right to respond, opportunities to improve etc. 

On Thursday 21st June we will be holding a workshop covering the practical aspects of carrying out a capability or disciplinary procedure.  We’ll look at what the differences are between capability and disciplinary and how you can handle them with confidence and success. 

The workshop will be held at the Hennerton Golf Club from 9.30am to 12.30pm.  Please contact Sue for further details or to book your place.