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Management clinic

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I keep reading news stories about drugs in the workplace. Is it really that much of a problem? What’s the best way to approach the issue without making too much of it?

Drugs seem to be fairly readily available and if they lead to addiction they can cause serious problems, not only for an individual but for their employer too, says Alan Warner, director of people and property at Hertfordshire CC.

With some so-called recreational drugs it can be difficult to know who does and who does not indulge. Clearly we all want people to be fit to come to work, but we should also have an interest in the general health of our staff.

If they take drugs outside of work in their own private time, should we care? ‘Yes’ is the answer, especially if it affects their general wellbeing. Also, drugs are illegal.

We can moralise away, but what should we do that is more practical? A good place to start is information and health advice. Providing background information about drugs and their impact can be helpful, not only to your employees in respect of their own health, but also it might be useful in identifying and tackling issues in their families.

In the workplace, being under the influence of drugs is unacceptable and offenders should be immediately removed pending possible disciplinary action. This is no different to dealing with alcohol problems and it is wise to have policies and guidance in place to ensure a consistent and fair approach.

We should try to offer health support and some time off for treatment, especially for longer-serving colleagues, but the organisation must take control of the situation and get some time parameters for improvement and recovery.

This is a really difficult area, as the debates about classification and declassification rumble on and almost daily another prominent person owns up to having a puff or two.

To make it easier for yourself and your council, look at it from the angle of ‘is this person fit and safe for work or not?’ If the answer is ‘no’ and that happens to be because of drug taking, deal with it.

Alan Warner Director of people and property, Hertfordshire CC

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