Flowchart – Dealing with people who may be unfit for work

We have an obligation of care for our employees. There are many possible reasons an employees ability to work normally may be impaired ranging from a health issue to a drug or alcohol problem or stress. Our responsibility is to look after both the interests of the employee and the business. If we have evidence an employee may be impaired we need to take action.
1. First, collect the facts including;

  • Your own observations.
  • Witnesses?
  • CCTV?
  • Documents/emails?
  • If appropriate check with other employees and (discretely) with close work associates who may know something.
  • Talk to Health and Safety managers.
  • Read relevant policies (e.g. Drug and Alcohol)
2. Assess the evidence you have. Get a reliable (preferably medically trained) person to assist you and observe the employees behaviour. Signs could be;

  • Impairment through drug or alcohol use; or
  • Some physical or mental issue.
  • Signs of stress.
  • Very unusual (for that employee) behaviour.
  • A trend or pattern of behaviour/performance that concerns you.
3. Involve your Manager and a medically trained person (if available) to help with this judgement. Test is whether in your opinion (and usually after talking to the person);

  • There is a level of impairment through drug or alcohol use that exceeds our policy; or
  • Reasonable grounds to believe that, if they keep working, there is risk to the employee, others or plant and equipment from their performance/behaviour as a result of the risk factor you’ve identified.

If the answer to the above tests is ’No’ then take steps below to remove them from the workplace (at least until they are no longer a risk). If your conclusion is ‘Yes’ it may be that there is an issue which is not so severe that they need to be removed from the workplace but still requires your intervention because of its impact on the employee or their performance.

4. Are they impaired to a level that breaches our policy? Or is there a reasonable prospect of injury to themselves, others or damage to the business as a result of the impairment you observe?
8. In these cases the employee is not 100% but is clearly OK to work. They may include physical or mental illness, stress or other personal problems which although debilitating don’t prevent the employee from working. As manager you have two responsibilities, firstly to ensure the employee gets the assistance and support they need and secondly to minimise the impact of the situation on the workplace. Typically you need to:

  • Get an expert involved (or ensure the employee gets appropriate professional assistance).
  • Talk with the employee about the personal and work impact you observe.
  • Discuss options to address both personal and work impacts including treatment, paid or unpaid leave, changes in the workplace etc
  • Consider referral to another Doctor or AP (where appropriate).
  • Get your manager involved and monitor the situation closely yourself.
5. Is there a potential breach of our drug and alcohol or health and safety policy or Code of Conduct?
6. If in our judgement the employee is unfit for work then we are not obliged to pay them since they have ‘defaulted’ on their obligation to report ‘ready, willing and able to work. This can be contentious so make sure another Manager has witnessed the employees behaviour and can support your conclusion. They may return to work when any impairment is over. You may need (for example in the case of someone affected by drugs need a medical certificate to confirm they are fit to resume work.
Follow the Disciplinary Process. If drugs or alcohol are involved then make sure you comply with our Drug and Alcohol Policy.
7. These cases may include physical or mental illness, stress or other personal problems which result in the employee being unable to safely carry out their normal duties. As manager you have two responsibilities, firstly to ensure the employee gets the assistance and support they need and secondly to minimise the impact of the situation on the workplace. Make sure you talk to your manager about the options. It may be that BigApple will require some form of medical clearance before they are allowed to return to work.
In some cases you may need to consider a disciplinary process as well as the counselling or other support you provide because of the original incident. While we have sympathy for the person with the alcohol or drug problem they have breached our rules and may deserve a strong signal that their behaviour must change.