A substance misuse problem can come to light in various ways, either through the employee raising the matter themselves, through a complaint, by line manager identification or as a result of a formal or informal disciplinary, performance or attendance process. A substance misuse problem will be addressed as either a ‘management referral‘ or as a ‘voluntary referral‘, depending on how the matter is identified.
Where an employee’s work performance, attendance or behaviour is regarded as unsatisfactory by their manager and the manager’s belief is that a substance misuse problem may be the cause or a contributing factor, the following should be applied:-
- The manager will arrange an informal meeting with the employee concerned in order to discuss their concerns and identify the specific work-related problems that have arisen. At the meeting the manager will seek to identify whether the employee has a substance misuse or any other problem that has contributed to their unsatisfactory performance, attendance or behaviour.
- The meeting will be held in a private location and there should be no interruptions. It is important that the employee feels that the matter is being treated confidentially. The manager should adopt a sensitive approach at the meeting giving the employee every opportunity to provide a response to the issue(s) raised.
- If, in the course of the discussion, the employee acknowledges that they have (or may have) a substance misuse problem, then the employee will be referred to occupational health for assessment. The manager should ask the employee whether they have sought any treatment or support through their GP or other agency and should provide the employee with details of the Council’s confidential counselling service. Where no substance misuse problem is identified from the discussion the manager should proceed to address the performance, attendance or behaviour issue through the appropriate Council procedure.
- On receipt of the occupational health report the manager will meet formally with the employee to discuss the contents of the report and how matters will be taken forward. The employee may be accompanied at the meeting by a trade union representative or work colleague. A model letter for calling employee to the meeting is available. Where a substance misuse problem has been identified, any appropriate treatment/support programme will be discussed. A treatment/support programme can be identified through an employee’s GP or other agency. Occupational health may also provide relevant substance testing (including obtaining employee consent) and will produce a report on this to the manager. If following the occupational health referral, it is established that the employee does not have a substance misuse problem (or a substance misuse problem is identified but the employee does not agree to seek and undergo treatment/support); the manager will take steps to address the matter of substandard work performance, attendance or behaviour through the appropriate procedure.
- To continue to be supported under the ‘Managing Substance Misuse Policy and Procedure’, the employee is required to sign an agreement outlining their commitment to undergoing and adhering to any identified treatment/support programme. A template agreement of treatment document is available. This agreement will confirm what is expected of them and detail the likely consequences, if the programme is not commenced or adhered to, i.e. they could be subject to the Council’s work performance, discipline or attendance procedure, as appropriate. It will also detail the agreed supporting provisions. Where an employee is co-operating, and adhering to their treatment/support programme, any absences attributable to their substance misuse problem will not normally count towards trigger levels under the attendance policy/procedure. Such absences will, however, require to be monitored and managed.
- During the period of rehabilitation/recovery, the manager will regularly meet the employee to monitor their progress and examine and discuss with them the content of any further occupational health medical reports. The employee’s adherence to any identified treatment/support programme will be monitored as well as their work performance, attendance or behaviour. Any other reasonable support for the employee will also be discussed and considered at these meetings. The manager will keep a record of these review meetings which will continue until the employee has completed the recommended course of treatment/support as specified in the treatment/support agreement.
- Where an employee fails either partly or completely to adhere to their identified treatment/support programme, the manager will review their case. Consideration will be given to the level of commitment they have demonstrated to the treatment/support arrangements when deciding whether to give the employee a further opportunity to comply, recognising that relapse can be a feature of substance misuse problems, or whether to follow another course of action, which could include applying the work performance, discipline or attendance procedure (see model outcome letter Non Compliance /Partial Non-Compliance with a Treatment/Support Programme).
- At the end of any identified treatment/support programme, the employee should be re-referred to occupational health. The manager will then arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the contents of the occupational health report and the outcome of any treatment/support programme, to determine its success. A model letter discuss contents of occupational health report and the outcome of the programme/treatment is available. The employee may be accompanied at the meeting by a trade union representative or work colleague.
- Where the treatment/support programme has been successful, with the employee having addressed their substance misuse problem, their work performance, behaviour or attendance will be monitored in the normal way thereafter and they will no longer be considered under the ‘Managing Substance Misuse Policy and Procedure’.See model letter to confirm the successful outcome
- Where the treatment/support programme has been unsuccessful or only partially successful in addressing the employee’s substance misuse problem, then each case will be considered on its merits, with consideration given as to whether the work performance, discipline or attendance policy/procedure requires to be invoked (or whether a further period is given in the Managing Substance Misuse policy/procedure for the employee to address their problem). Where the employee is deemed unable to continue in their substantive post but could be considered for suitable alternative work, reasonable efforts should be made in consultation with the employee and, where relevant, their trade union representative, to identify an alternative post where appropriate and feasible. If a suitable alternative post is not available and all reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the employee have proved unsuccessful with their standard of work performance, attendance or behaviour remaining a concern, the matter may move to
a Capability Hearing. Please see the model letter letter to confirm unsuccessful outcome
If, during the course of a discipline case, the employee indicates that the underlying cause of their conduct/behaviour is related to substance misuse, the following should be applied:-
- In cases of alleged potential gross misconduct, the disciplinary process will continue regardless of whether the employee’s apparent actions may be attributed to substance misuse (although a referral to occupational health can be considered where appropriate). Also, there is no need to defer disciplinary proceedings if it is not reasonable to accept that the employee’s conduct was directly caused by substance misuse. In each of these situations any substance misuse problem identified will be treated as a separate matter with the offer of assistance and support still being made. Where the offer is accepted the appropriate parts under the management referral route should be followed.
- In all other cases, where an employee indicates that they have a substance misuse problem and agrees to seek help and adhere to any identified treatment/support programme, the manager undertaking the discipline case will adjourn the disciplinary proceedings to allow for referral of the employee to occupational health for assessment.
- In cases where a disciplinary case has been adjourned to allow for referral to occupational health, upon receipt of the occupational health assessment the discipline case should be reconvened and progressed to its conclusion.
- Where an employee has had their substance misuse problem confirmed following occupational health assessment, the employee’s substance misuse problem may be regarded as a mitigating factor in the discipline case. As such, it may be taken into account when deciding whether to apply a disciplinary sanction against the employee and, if so, the level of sanction, where a case is found against the employee.
- Thereafter, the process detailed under the Management Referral route under 1 above (4th bullet point onwards) should be followed, to support the employee to address their substance misuse problem. This includes the requirement for the employee to sign an agreement outlining their commitment to undergoing and adhering to any identified treatment/support programme, with the agreement of treatment document. Details of the Council’s confidential counselling service should also be provided to the employee.
- An employee with a substance misuse problem, which has not been identified by their manager and which has not yet had an adverse effect on their work performance, conduct or attendance, is encouraged to voluntarily seek help and assistance in overcoming their problem. The employee can either arrange for a self-referral to the employee counselling service or can approach their manager, a more senior manager or their trade union representative, who will be able to offer assistance and guidance with regard to their problem. Where the matter is raised with a manager, consideration should be given to referring the employee to occupational health, where this is considered appropriate and necessary.
- Where a referral is made to occupational health and a substance misuse problem is identified, as no work performance, attendance or behaviour issues have arisen to date the emphasis should be on supporting and helping the employee to maintain satisfactory standards in these areas (with the supporting provisions here). The employee will be required to sign a support agreement committing to adhering to any identified treatment/support programme in order for the supporting provisions under the Managing Substance Misuse policy/procedure to apply and continue. A template Support Agreement Voluntarily by Employee is available. The agreement will also detail the agreed supporting provisions. A manager should seek appropriate advice where there is a potential health and safety risk or concern.
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