Substance Misuse Policy


Substance Misuse Policypdf(363 kb)

Substance Misuse Policy Slides (324 kb) Powerpoint


Go to a specific section:


Purpose and scope of the policy

Identifying a problem

Alcohol and drugs at work

Managing suspected substance misuse

Providing support


Performance and disciplinary issues

Appendix 1: Glossary pdf(62 kb)

Appendix 2: External Support Services pdf(210 kb)



1. Introduction

1.1 De Montfort University is committed to providing a safe, healthy and productive working environment. This includes ensuring that all staff are fit to carry out their jobs safely and effectively in an environment which is free from the risks associated with alcohol and drug misuse. All staff are expected to attend work fit to carry out their job and to be able to perform their duties safely without any limitations due to the use or after effects of alcohol, drugs or other substances (other than prescription or over the counter medication, as directed; see section 4.4).

1.2 The university recognises that some staff members may misuse drugs or alcohol or they may become dependent on alcohol or drugs. It is also recognised that such dependencies can be successfully treated. The university wishes to promote a culture which understands and is sympathetic to the problems associated with alcohol and drug misuse or dependency in which staff are encouraged and supported to seek help.

1.3 While the university wishes to promote a supportive environment for staff, the university has a wider duty of care to other staff, students and those who are affected by the university’s activities. In addition, some individuals will be subject to professional codes of conduct defined by external bodies. There may be occasions where staff arriving at work under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and/or whose ability to work is impaired in any way by reason of the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or who (subject to 4.2) consume alcohol or take drugs (other than prescription or over the counter medication, as directed) on the university’s premises may be dealt with under the university’s disciplinary procedure.

1.4 This policy will be kept under review and the university may amend it at any time.


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2. Purpose and scope of the policy

2.1 The purpose of this policy is to increase awareness of the potential effects of alcohol and drug misuse and its potential impact on an employee’s continued employment, and to ensure that:

a) All staff are aware of their responsibilities regarding alcohol and drug misuse and related problems.

b) Staff who have an alcohol or drug-related problem are encouraged to seek help, in confidence, at an early stage.

c) Staff who have an alcohol or drug-related problem affecting their work are dealt with sympathetically, fairly and consistently.


2.2 The main focus of the policy is not therefore on isolated incidents or offences caused by alcohol or drug misuse at or outside work where there is no evidence of an ongoing problem, which may constitute misconduct, may damage the university’s reputation, and which may be dealt with under the applicable disciplinary procedure.

2.3 Where applicable, this policy covers all staff working for or on behalf of the university, e.g. all DMU employees, secondees, consultants, contractors, volunteers, interns, casual workers and agency workers. For those not directly employed by the university, e.g. if the worker’s contract is with an agency such as Unitemps, this policy will apply with any necessary modifications.


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3. Identifying a problem

3.1 Concerns about an individual’s misuse of or dependency on drugs or alcohol might be raised in a number of ways either through personal disclosure of the problem by the member of staff or concerns raised by others about an individual’s behaviour from observation. Examples are given below.

a) The individual’s work performance may have deteriorated or they may have difficulty concentrating or they make more errors. They may take longer to complete tasks or have problems remembering instructions.

b) There may be increased absenteeism from work, repeated lateness, or a pattern of absence that gives cause for concern and might initially be raised as part of an attendance management process eg during an informal return to work discussion or formal Attendance Management Meeting. (See the university’s Attendance Management Policy and associated guidance for more information.)

c) They may have more accidents, at home or at work or while driving.

d) Their personality or behaviour may have changed or is erratic: they may be irritable or seem depressed.

3.2 It should be noted that the above indicators are not conclusive of any problem with drugs or alcohol and might be indicative of other health conditions or a number of other factors. There may however be sufficient indicators to cause concern about the individual’s welfare and to act as a prompt to try and initiate an open and honest dialogue with the individual about those concerns.

3.3 If you notice a change in a colleague's pattern of behaviour you should encourage them to seek assistance through their manager or HR. If they will not seek help you should draw the matter to the attention of your manager. You should not attempt to cover up for a colleague whose work or behaviour is suffering, or you reasonably suspect is suffering, as a result of an alcohol or drug-related problem.

3.4 If you believe that you have an alcohol or drug-related problem you should seek specialist advice and support as soon as possible. The university’s occupational health service can assist you and will, where possible, do so in confidence.

3.5 Staff may also access the confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to seek advice on general medical and lifestyle issues including advice on alcohol intake. Details of how staff can access the service free are available on the intranet. See also Appendix 2: External Support Services.


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4. Alcohol and drugs at work

4.1 Misuse of alcohol and drugs can lead to reduced levels of attendance, reduced efficiency and performance, impaired judgement and decision making and increased health and safety risks for you and other people. Irresponsible behaviour or the commission of offences resulting from the misuse of alcohol or drugs may damage the university’s reputation and, as a result, its ability to attract and retain high quality staff and students.

4.2 All staff are expected to demonstrate responsible behaviour at work, work-related functions and work-related social events and to act in a way that will not have a detrimental effect on the university’s reputation. If you entertain clients or represent the university either on site or at external events where alcohol is served, you are considered to be "at work" regardless of whether you do so outside normal working hours. Consequently, the university expects you to remain professional during such events. In addition, managers should act to prevent excessive consumption of alcohol by any member of staff and should take steps to deal with any unacceptable conduct. Any such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action. See also the Code of Conduct for DMU Staff: “Work-related social events and activities”.

4.3 You must comply with drink-driving laws and drug-driving laws at all times, including the applicable local laws and cultures when travelling overseas. Conviction for a drink-driving or drug-driving offence may harm the university’s reputation and, if your job requires you to drive, you may be unable to continue to do your job. Committing a drink-driving or drug-driving offence while carrying out work for the university is potential gross misconduct and could result in dismissal. See also the Code of Conduct for DMU Staff: “Disclosure of criminal charges or convictions”.

4.4 If you are prescribed medication you must seek advice from your GP or pharmacist about the possible effect on your ability to carry out your job effectively and safely, and whether your duties should be modified or you should be temporarily reassigned to a different role. If so you must tell your line manager without delay. Any failure to do so which later comes to light may lead to action under the disciplinary procedure and could result in dismissal. Your line manager may seek advice from HR if required before deciding what action, if any, should be taken to minimise risks. A referral to Occupational Health may be required in such cases in order to obtain further advice about the impact of the prescription on your ability to perform your role for the university and any recommendations to mitigate that impact.

4.5 Staff should be aware that the misuse of alcohol or drugs in the workplace is likely to lead to dismissal. The university expressly prohibits the use of any illegal drugs or other substances of abuse such as solvents or ‘legal highs’. It is a criminal offence to be in possession of, use or distribute an illicit substance. If any such incidents take place on the university’s premises, in university vehicles or at a university function, they will be regarded as serious, will be investigated by the university, and may lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal and possible reporting to the police.


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5. Managing suspected substance misuse

5.1 Where a manager considers that deterioration in work performance and/or changes in patterns of behaviour may be due to alcohol or drug misuse they should seek advice and assistance from HR and/or Occupational Health.

5.2 In such cases your manager may invite you to a meeting to discuss the matter. The purpose of the meeting will be to:

a) discuss their concerns and seek your views on, for example, the deterioration of your work performance and/or behaviour; and

b) where appropriate, offer to refer you to Occupational Health for advice.

5.3 If you agree to be referred to Occupational Health your manager will request an urgent appointment and prepare a referral, a copy of which will be provided to you.

5.4 Occupational Health may ask for your consent to approach your GP for advice. With your consent, a report will then be sent to your manager who will then decide on the way forward.

5.5 If, as a result of the meeting, your manager continues to believe that you are suffering the effects of alcohol or drugs misuse and you refuse an offer of referral to Occupational Health or other appropriate treatment providers the matter may be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

5.6 Where a manager has a reasonable belief that a staff member is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances while at work, they should seek immediate advice from HR and Occupational Health to consider whether the individual is fit for work. If the individual is considered unfit for work and/or there is any potential danger to the health and safety of the individual or others, they may be asked to go home (they should not be allowed to drive home and where necessary the manager may arrange for a taxi to take them home) and, for employees, the absence will normally be recorded as sickness absence. Depending on the circumstances and the employee’s role for the university, the matter may be considered as a misconduct matter under the disciplinary procedure.


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6. Providing support

6.1 Alcohol and drug dependency may develop for a variety of reasons and over a considerable period. The university is committed, in so far as possible, to treating dependency (eg alcoholism) or health problems as a result of drug or alcohol misuse in a similar way to other health issues. The university will provide support where possible with a view to a return to full duties. This may include:

a) Referral to appropriate treatment providers, where necessary in conjunction with your GP.

b) Time off work to attend treatment and recognition of any periods of absence for such treatment in accordance with the university’s policies eg special leave and attendance management policies.

c) Consideration being given to adjusting your duties or offering other support where reasonable and as recommended by a medical professional eg Occupational Health, your GP or specialist or as recommended in a Fit For Work Plan, during treatment and for an agreed period thereafter, subject to operational requirements and feasibility.

6.2 If you do not finish a programme of treatment, or your recovery and return to work does not go as planned, your manager and/or HR adviser will meet with you to decide what further action if any should be taken.


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7. Confidentiality

7.1 The university aims to ensure that the confidentiality of any member of staff experiencing alcohol or drug-related problems is maintained appropriately. However, it needs to be recognised that, in supporting staff, some degree of information sharing is likely to be necessary.

7.2 If you seek help with an alcohol or drug-related problem directly from HR or Occupational Health and you wish to keep matters confidential from your manager and colleagues, this will be respected unless there is reason to believe that this could put you, your colleagues, students, or anyone else at risk or carries some other material risk for the university. In those circumstances you will be encouraged to inform your manager and you will be given sufficient time to do so before the matter is discussed with them.


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8. Performance and disciplinary issues

8.1 If you agree to undertake appropriate treatment and/or rehabilitation for an alcohol or drug-related problem, the university may decide to suspend any ongoing disciplinary action against you for related misconduct or poor performance, pending the outcome of the treatment.

8.2 The university’s intention is to support all staff with alcohol or drug-related problems to regain good health. Depending on the progress made on the course of treatment, any disciplinary action may be suspended for a specified period, discontinued or restarted at any time as the university considers appropriate in the circumstances.



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Appendix 1: Glossary


Appendix 2: External Support Services

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