Alcohol, drugs and the workplace
It is advisable to adopt a clear and unambiguous attitude to the consumption of alcohol at the workplace
There are three phases here:
Article L.312-1 of the Labour Code requires employers to assure the safety and health of their workers in every aspect of their work. The Labour Code lays emphasis on preventive action by the employer and on his liability if he fails to respect his obligations. In the exercise of his responsibilities for health and safety, the employer is entitled to prohibit the consumption of alcohol by his employees at their workplace.
Article L.313-1 of the Labour Code requires each worker to take care to the best of his ability of his own safety and health, as well as that of the other persons who are affected by his actions or omissions at work, in a manner commensurate with his training and with the instructions given by his employer. Employees accordingly have an obligation to report immediately to the employer and/or to the designated worker and safety delegate, any situation at work which they have reasonable grounds to presume presents a serious and immediate danger to safety and health.
These statutory provisions tend to create collective responsibility on the part both of the worker who consumes alcohol and of his work colleagues.
The consumption of alcohol is regarded as a misdemeanour committed by the employee in the performance of his work.
This misdemeanour justifies a penalty which may go so far as dismissal, depending on the gravity of the case.
But the gravity of this offence is reviewed by the judge who uses his sovereign power of assessment which tends:
- either to tolerate the consumption of alcohol if this is an isolated event,
- or to treat the consumption of alcohol as a serious misdemeanour if it is accompanied by a state of drunkenness, behaviour that disturbs other persons, prejudice to the employer, incapacity from work or work that is badly done and also if it is a repeat offence.
Nevertheless, the judge will be inclined to moderate the gravity of the fault and to refuse dismissal if, despite the (above) elements which accompany the consumption of alcohol, that consumption:
- remains an isolated event
- the employee concerned has substantial seniority in the enterprise
- the employee has no previous history and has never been given a warning for similar events.
The consumption of alcohol will always be regarded as a serious misdemeanour if the alcohol has been consumed by an employee who occupies a high risk position or has been recruited as a professional driver.
➢ What is meant by dependence or addiction?
Dependence is a situation in which an individual habitually uses a particular drug and the cessation of its consumption results in a mental or even physical malaise which obliges the subject to continue consumption.
But it is important to note that the notion of dependence includes all “forms of craving without drugs” and that the term addiction is used to characterize such behaviour; this is therefore another term used to designate the relationship of dependence of the individual on a product, a practice or a situation which has an alienating effect in varying degrees on that individual.
The two terms tend to be used as alternatives to designate this behaviour pattern which leads a person to indulge in practices that cause him to lose his freedom to live and exist as he pleases.
➢ Types of addiction
- On a product: drug, tobacco, alcohol, medicine.
- On a practice: game, sport, work, sex.
- On a situation: loving relationship
➢ Psychoactive substances:
Definition: these are substances which alter the mental faculties: alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, caffeine etc.
The individual may deliberately seek this effect (by using drugs or psychotropic pharmaceuticals) or may not do so deliberately (secondary effects of non-psychotropic pharmaceuticals, for example).
A natural or artificial chemical substance that is liable to alter mental activity: anxiolytic (tranquilisers), sleeping tablets, neuroleptics (anti-psychotic medicines), antidepressants.
In general, a distinction can be made between three types of use of psychoactive substances at the workplace:
- Private uses which have repercussions on the workplace.
- Usage in the business environment: birthday parties, leaving parties and business meals.
- Uses associated with working conditions (for instance, excessive consumption of drugs to combat fatigue, use of pharmaceuticals to “keep going”, use of anxiolytics to control stress or anxiety).
➢ The state of inebriation
This is a changed condition of the senses due to the consumption of alcohol or other psychoactive substances.
➢ The symptoms
Alcohol, drugs and psychotropic pharmaceuticals change perception, sensations, moods and consciousness.
The following signs may be observed at the workplace:
- a loss of vigilance
- losses of balance
- a diminished awareness of dangers
- slower reflexes
- possibly, a greater propensity to take risks
➢ Typical signs or pointers
- lack of punctuality or failure to take things seriously
- more frequent short absences with no apparent reason, especially at the start of the week
- diminished performance and endurance
- reduced memory capacity
- high frequency of accidents
- change of personality and social behaviour
To conclude that the employee is in difficulty, there must of course not be just one typical sign, but a whole set of different elements.