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HR Policy
To Be Categorised
Head of Human Resources
HR Policy Group
Director of Workforce, Employee Director,
30 April 2014
14 November 2017
14 November 2020

General Note

NHS Fife acknowledges and agrees with the importance of regular and timely review of policy/procedure statements and aims to review policies within the timescales set out.

New policies/procedures will be subject to a review date of no more than 1 year from the date of first issue.

Reviewed policies/procedures will have a review date set that is relevant to the content (advised by the author) but will be no longer than 3 years.

If a policy/procedure is past its review date then the content will remain extant until such time as the policy/procedure review is complete and the new version published, or there are national policy or legislative changes.


NHS Fife is committed topromoting the health, safety and welfare of its workforce. NHS Fife recognises the need for a policy using a constructive and preventative strategy designed to encourage early identification of alcohol related or drug related problems among our employees. Substance misuse (as defined in Appendix 2, Misuse of Drugs Act 1971), whether alcohol or drugs, including legal highs, frequently affects personal health and social functioning and can impair work capability. Impaired work capability can lead to absenteeism, lost time on the job, accidents, loss of training investment, waste, poor judgement and wrong decisions. Misuse of alcohol and drugs has considerable implications for health and safety at work and there are legal implications for NHS Fife as an employer and for individual employees.


This policy applies to all employees of NHS Fife.


The responsibility for the application of the policy rests with Line Managers and HR staff within NHS Fife.


4.1 Introduction

This policy aims to:

  • prevent and reduce the prevalence of alcohol or drug related work impairment;
  • reduce the personal suffering of employees with substance misuse problems; and
  • create a climate which removes the tendency to conceal, deny, and cover up the problem while providing management, employees and Trade Unions/ Professional Organisations with confidence when dealing with substance misuse-induced loss of capacity.

The aims of the policy are fourfold:

  • To alert employees to the risks associated with substance misuse and to promote an awareness of sensible drinking.
  • To encourage employeeswho suspect or know that they have an alcohol or drug related problem (or who are suspected or known by colleagues to have such a problem) to seek help directly.
  • Where, if using the Management of Employee Capability or Conduct Policy, it is suspected or known that the problem isalcohol or drug related, to offer to refer the employee to Staff Well-being & Safety to encourage engagement with an appropriate agency for assessment, counselling and, as necessary, other forms of help.
  • To restore the effectiveness of any employee who may need to use this policy.
  • To support an employee to address drug or alcohol misuse problems and to facilitate their return to acceptable work performance

4.2 Scope

This policy and procedure details the measures to be taken to respond to situations involving alcohol ordrugs impacting on the workplace.

Nothing in this policy and procedure is intended to override statutory or national arrangements applying to particular categories of employees eg Medical & Dental staff.

The policy and procedure below is written in terms of alcohol and alcohol-related problems. It applies equally to substance misuse with other drugs and any drug-related problems.

NHS Fiferegards employees as our most important asset. We wish to help any employee with an alcohol or drug-related problem to recover their effectiveness within an agreed timescale.

The provisions of the policy and procedure will apply to circumstances where alcohol or drug related problems affect the capability or conduct of the employee in relation to their work. The policy does not apply to employees who, because of excessive indulgence of alcohol or drugs on random occasions, contravene our standards of safety and conduct. Such cases will be dealt with according to NHS Fife’s Management of Employee Conduct Policy. Managers should establish which circumstances apply, with HR and Staff Well-being & Safety advice and support.

Whilst this policy is limited to instances which affect the work capability or conduct of our employees, NHS Fife also prohibits the consumption of alcohol or other substances of misuse while on duty, during recognised breaks or at a function or event when representing NHS Fife. Any breach of this policy will be investigated under the Management of Employee Conduct policy.

No employee shall be in the possession of alcohol or drugs while at work or misuse alcohol or drugs while on duty.However, NHS Fife recognises the controlled use and possession of over the counter and / or prescribed medicines for personal use as an exception; however, employees using any medication which may affect their behaviour / work have a responsibility to inform their line manager.

4.3 General principles

NHS Fife recognises that alcohol or drug related problems are areas of health and social concern, and want to offer employees with such problems access to help.

Alcohol or drug related problemsare defined as any drinking or drug taking, either intermittent or continual, which definitely and repeatedly interferes with a person's health, social functioning and work capability or conduct.

Employees who suspect or know that they have an alcohol or drug related problem are encouraged to seek help and treatment voluntarily either through our procedures, or through resources of the employee's own choosing. This facility is a key part of the policy.

The possibility of a employee having an alcohol or drug related problem may be brought to light because of problems with health or with work performance or behaviour, orother signs which may lead to action under the Management of Employee Capability or Conduct Policy. Where a line manager identifies a possible problem, and if the employee agrees, the opportunity for assessment and counselling can be given and formal processes will be suspended.

NHS Fife recognises that managers and Trade Union / Professional Organisation representatives are not qualified to come to conclusions about whether an alcohol or drug related problem exists. However, it is important that they provide all appropriate information regarding their concerns to Staff Well-being & Safety. Staff Well-being & Safety,with referral to appropriate specialists, will undertake the critical role in determining whether a problem exists and what help is appropriate.

The diagnosis of an alcohol or drug related problem should not be confused with the identification of whether a member of staff has presented for duty under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or smelling ofalcohol. This will remain the responsibility of the manager, Human Resources and the Trade Union / Professional Organisation representatives.

In all instances, th eopportunity to seek and accept help and treatment is made on the clear understanding that:

  • If necessary, the employee will be granted sick leave within the terms of the appropriate occupational sick pay scheme to undergo treatment.
  • Where appropriate, formal action in relation to the Management of Employee Capability or Conduct Policy will be suspended.
  • On resumption of full duties, or on return to work following a period of treatment, the employee will be able to return to the same job, unless the effects of the alcohol or drug problem makes him or her unfit or unsuitable to resume the same job, or where resuming the same job would be inconsistent with the long-term resolution of the employee's alcohol or drug problem, subject to Staff Well-being & Safety advice. When the same job cannot be resumed, every consideration will be given to finding suitable alternative employment in accordance with NHS Fife’s Capability Policy. The employee will be encouraged to seek Trade Union / Professional Organisation representation in discussions regarding alternative employment.

An employee whose problems are suspected to be alcohol or drug related and who refuses the offer of referral for diagnosis and / or help and treatment or who discontinues a course of treatment before its satisfactory completion, and who continues to show unsatisfactory levels of work performance and / or behaviour, may be subject to action under NHS Fife’s Management of Employee Conduct Policy.

Following return to employment, should work performance and / or behaviour suffer as a result of alcohol/ drug related problems, each case will be considered individually. If appropriate, a further opportunity to accept and co-operate with help and treatment may be offered.

The confidential nature of any records of employeeswith alcohol / drug related problems will be strictly observed.

NHS Fife recognises that there may be occasions when colleagues / workmates will be placed under stres sduring the course of treatment and rehabilitation of a fellow employee with an alcohol or drug related problem. Managers will be sensitive to this and can take appropriate measures to safeguard the interest and welfare of employees.

NHS Fife will apply any national arrangements to particular categories of employees eg Medical & Dental staff.

Employees will be advised of the policy and procedures, in particular the arrangements for self-referral via Self Referral in the first instance.

Training and guidance will be given to managers and trade union / professional organisation representatives to operate the policy and procedure effectively (see Appendix 1 - Flow Chart).

4.4 Procedure

Identifying problems of misuse can come through a self-referral by an employee (see 4.3) or through a referral by the line manager; normally in light of problems of conduct or capability of an employee, to Staff Well-being & Safety.

Employees may, at any time, approach Staff Well-being & Safety if they are concerned about their consumption of alcohol or drug use. As with other contacts with Staff Well-being & Safety, all consultations will be treated in the strictest medical confidence,except where the safety of others may be affected.

Colleagues, Managers, Human Resources Staff and Trade Union / Professional Organisation representatives may seek advice informally from Staff Well-being & Safety should they require help in dealing with a suspected alcohol or drug problem. These discussions will also be treated in the strictest professional confidence.

Any employeemay seek help by either:

  • voluntarily seeking help directly from Staff Well-being & Safety, Self Referral or other agency; or
  • contacting their line manager or HR, or Employee’s Trade Union Representative, when the manager, HR or Trade Union Side Representative will see the employeeas soon as possible and arrange an immediate appointment with Staff Well-being & Safety.

Staff Well-being & Safety will:

  • assess the nature and extent of the problem and where the nature of the problem is accepted, they will facilitate or monitor a programme of help, if required;
  • tell the Line Manager and HR if absence from work will be necessary as part of a course of help and/or if the co-operation of the work department is required around the employee's duties, working conditions or continuing support; and/or
  • With the patient's consent, liaise with the family doctor and outside agencies (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous / Scottish Drugs Forum) to encourage recovery.

Referral by Management:

  • The procedure for this is attached at Appendix 1. The effective operation of this procedure depends upon communication and co-operation between the manager, Human Resources, Trade Union / Professional Organisation representative, as appropriate, and Staff Well-being & Safety.
  • While the process described in Appendix 1 uses the normal route of referral as through HR, there will be situations where there will be direct referral and subsequent communication between the manager and Staff Well-being & Safety. The line manager, HR and Staff Well-being & Safety should agree the most appropriate line of communication for particular cases. The importance of all parties being kept fully informed is crucial to managing the situation.

4.5 Recording/ Documentation

It will be necessary to keep a record of all meetings noting what has been discussed and detailing the support that is being offered.

Since alcohol and drug misuse can be along standing issue, notes from meetings will require to be kept in the employee’s Human Resource records, with the employee receiving a copy.

Employee’s have to be made aware that notes previously taken may be reflected on if there are further concerns about an employee’s conduct in line with the content of this policy.

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