Sunday, 8th December 2019

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Drugs and Alcohol Free Workplace

Drug Free Workplace


So far as is reasonably possible, employers are legally obliged to ensure the safety and welfare at work of all employees. Likewise, employees have a responsibility to themselves and to their colleagues.  The use of alcohol and/or unauthorised drugs may disturb the safe and efficient running of a business. It can hinder the health and safety of employees within the organisation as well as the customers and other stakeholders.


There can be multiple negative effects of alcohol and drug use. Below illustrates just some of the adverse outcomes that can come as a result of drug and/or alcohol use:


  • The use of drugs or alcohol by an employee can lead to performance/productivity issues. It can make concentration very difficult for the person in question. Work related tasks can take more time and the number of mistakes can often increase, potentially costing the Company, individual concerned and other employees dearly.               

  • Another common consequence of alcohol or drug use is the loss of faculties. This may lead to an inability to properly assess danger which can, in turn, bring about higher accident levels when driving to or from work, or being more prone to having an accident or causing an accident when at work.

  • Absence from work is another likely outcome when using alcohol or drugs in an excessive or irresponsible manner. Other related lapses such as lateness and disproportionate levels of sickness, etc. are also common.

Health and Safety in the Workplace


Companies should operate a ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol and
employees should not be permitted to work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol under any circumstances. Employees must adhere to all medically prescribed drug instructions and if the medication is likely to cause any side effects that could impair the employee’s levels of concentration or ability to carry out his or her work then he or she should communicate this to Management.


If an employee’s performance or attendance at work is affected as a result of alcohol or drugs, or the employer believes the employee has been involved in any drug related action/offence, disciplinary action may be required. Dismissal may be warranted in severe circumstances.


It should be clearly communicated to employees that anyone involved in the unlawful possession, use, sale or manufacture of controlled substances or illicit drugs etc. on Company premises, in Company vehicles/work sites or during working time will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. They should also be referred for prosecution. 


Companies should also include a drug and alcohol testing policy in their employee handbook to improve their rights in these situations.


Smoking regulations for employees:

In line with statutory provisions companies are obliged to operate a strict smoke-free
workplace policy. Employers should make their employees fully aware that any member of staff who breaches this policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. It is imperative that employers enforce the law.



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Labour Court Ends Zero-Hours Contracts For HSE Home Helps

The Labour Court has issued a recommendation giving improved terms and conditions to Home Help workers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE).


 Labour Court, HSE, Home Help


The recommendation, which is binding under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement, was issued on 18th September, 2013, and will affect the employment terms and conditions of approximately 10,000 workers.  It is important to note that this agreement only applies to Home Helps who are employed by the HSE. Individuals employed by private companies or not-for-profit providers are not covered by this Labour Court recommendation.


Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) has been campaigning since 2009 in a bid to secure adequate contracts and security of earnings for its members. The Union has welcomed the Labour Court decision which brings an end to the extensive system of zero-hour contracts. Paul Bell, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, stated that the agreement put the terms and conditions of Home Helps on a “firm and binding platform for the first time since the community service was established thirty years ago”.


A Zero-hours contract is a type of employment where an employee must be available for work but does not have specified or guaranteed hours or a formal roster. This can cause challenging circumstances for employees where the hours of work as well as earnings are unpredictable.


Home Help Contracts


This Labour Court agreement provides for the issuing of annualised contracts guaranteeing a minimum of seven to 10 hours of work per week for each Home Help. Caroline Jenkinson, Labour Court Deputy Chairman, explained that “the number of hours to be allocated to each person will be based on 80 per cent of their actual hours worked in the six-month reference period between October 1st, 2011, and March 31st, 2012, with a minimum guarantee of seven hours”.



In addition to welcoming the removal of the zero-hours system Mr. Bell of SIPTU applauded a HSE effort to reorganise and manage the Home Help hours on a county by county basis.


Those who choose not to work under the annualised hour scheme may be entitled to receive compensation of between €2,000 and €3,000 under an exit deal.

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