Human Resources

Conduct & capability

Policy on drug and alcohol misuse 

1. Introduction & Scope

Loughborough University (the University) is committed to providing a safe, healthy and productive working environment for everyone who works or visits our campuses. This policy sets-out how the University aims to respond to drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace and applies to all employees, workers, contractors and visitors to the University.

The use of drugs and alcohol is a personal matter which only concerns the University if it has a detrimental impact on an individual’s performance, conduct or health. Drug and alcohol misuse is associated with a wide variety of costs for employers and employees. These include sickness absence, reduced work performance and accidents in the workplace.

Consumption of drugs and alcohol (including prescription and over the counter drugs) or intoxication during working hours may endanger the health and safety of the individual and others, since they impair coordination, judgement and decision making.

Through the application of this policy, the University aims to support individuals where drug and alcohol misuse is causing concern in the workplace to accept the appropriate help, support and treatment at an early stage. The focus of the policy is prevention and support however disciplinary action may be necessary where the individual’s actions create a serious risk to health, safety or working relationships.

2. Other policy considerations

It is important to note that this policy should be read and adhered to in conjunction with the following University policies, as these also make reference to standards of conduct:

Business travel and expenses policy

Capability procedure

CCTV code of practice

Conditions of service

Conflict of interest policy and procedure

Disciplinary policy and procedure / Ordinance 35

Data protection policy

Employee code of conduct

Equality and diversity – legal requirements

Harassment and bullying policy

Managing sickness absence policy and procedure

Research staff employment code of practice

Safeguarding policy

Whistleblowing policy and procedure

Wellbeing framework


All policies can be found by accessing the University’s policy gateway, which can be found at

3. Policy objectives

  • To set-out the University’s position and the rules regarding the use of intoxicating substances so that employees are aware of the likely consequences for their employment if they misuse them.
  • To identify any alcohol and drug problems at an early stage.
  • To create a climate that encourages employees experiencing problems with drug or alcohol misuse to access support without delay
  • To support colleagues in acknowledging addiction problems and seek appropriate help.
  • To ensure that the brand and reputation of the University is not damaged. 
  • To increase employee confidence in seeking help for alcohol/drug problems.
  • To reintegrate employees with drug/alcohol problems back into the workplace.
  • To provide a framework within which drug and alcohol misuse problems can be managed in a fair and consistent manner.
  • To support line managers to make sure they feel able to support employees experiencing problems.
  • To achieve a balance between supporting an employee who asks for help with a problem and the overriding need to preserve health and safety at work and the delivery of a high-quality service.

 4. Definitions

Alcohol misuse. The University defines alcohol misuse as any drinking, either intermittent or continual, which impairs the health, social functioning, work capability or conduct of an individual. It also refers to situations where alcohol is consumed during working hours with the exception of that served at University functions.

Drugs. The University defines controlled drugs as all chemical substances or drugs listed in any controlled drugs acts or regulations applicable under the law that impair the way the body functions physically, emotionally or mentally. In the case of prescribed or over the counter drugs, the University recognise that their possession and use by an employee is legitimate.  

Drug misuse. The University defines drug abuse as the use of illegal drugs, the deliberate misuse of prescribed or over the counter drugs and the use of solvents, either intermittent or continuous, which impairs the health, social/physical functioning, work capability or conduct of an employee.

5. Legal

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the University recognises the duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and others who are (or may be) affected by their activities, as far as is reasonably practicable, and are committed to taking measures to ensuring this safety.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the University will carry out risk assessments to identify workplace hazards and put measures in place to minimise these risks. These regulations also place a legal duty on employees in relation to their own safety as well as the safety of others. Employees must inform their manager of any situations that could be considered to constitute a health and safety risk, including where a colleague appears to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs whilst at work.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is illegal for anyone to produce, supply or be in possession of illegal drugs. Employers may be liable if they knowingly allow an employee, customer or service user to dispense, manufacture, possess, use or sell drugs on their premises.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, individuals who attempt to drive a motor vehicle whilst unfit to do so due to the use of alcohol and/or drugs can be prosecuted. This includes driving as part of work duties. Employees who drive to work and/or are required to drive in connection with their duties must ensure that they are fit to do so, in accordance with the laws surrounding driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, it is illegal to supply or sell legal highs for the use of recreational consumption.

6. Principles

The University has no desire to interfere in employees’ private lives. However, where an individual’s lifestyle choices have a direct impact on their work, the University may have a legal, procedural, social or moral obligation to become involved and take necessary action. 

The University require all employees to come to work free from the effects of alcohol and drugs, except prescription drugs prescribed to the individual and medicines available over the counter. Working under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or consuming them during hours of work, including paid and unpaid breaks, is unacceptable behaviour and, subject to the provisions of this policy, could warrant disciplinary action. The exception to this is alcohol served at University functions. It is however expected that this will be consumed responsibly and in moderation.

Employees found in possession of illegal drugs or using them whilst at work will, at the discretion of the University, be reported to the police and, subject to the provisions of this policy, may be subject to disciplinary action.

Employees should check whether any prescription or over-the-counter medication they are taking may affect their performance, conduct and/or attendance at work. If so, they must notify their manager immediately of the impact/side effects that the medication may have on them. They do not need to disclose the name of the medication being taken or the medical condition it is being used to treat. Employees who have any doubts as to the possible effects of their medication should seek advice from their GP or another appropriate medical professional and the line manager should seek Occupational Health (OH) advice.

The University recognises that misuse of certain substances has physical and mental symptoms which may manifest in misconduct, poor performance and ill-health. Reasonable absence from work on sick leave may therefore be necessary where an employee is referred for treatment to a specialist agency.

If poor performance or misconduct is considered to result from misuse of drugs and/or alcohol and the employee undertakes a course of treatment they will retain all rights to sickness benefits under their conditions of service.

An employee's initial voluntary decision to seek assistance with a drug and alcohol misuse problem will in no way affect their security of employment. However, should the employee discontinue engaging treatment, have a relapse or if absence is unsustainable, this may affect the future of any employment with the University.

Where possible and within the confines of the law, confidentiality will be maintained throughout the period where an employee is seeking help. Any sharing of information between the OH and external agencies will only take place with the employee's express consent, except where there is a need to protect public safety or informing emergency services for example.

By the very nature of the condition, people trying to cope with misuse of drugs and/or alcohol can, on occasions, suffer a relapse. If such a relapse affects their performance or conduct, the position will be sympathetically reviewed in the light of all the circumstances and the decision about whether to continue supporting the employee or to take disciplinary action will be taken after advice from OH has been sought. Human Resources will be involved in all cases other than voluntary referrals where they will be available to assist if required by either the manager or the individual employee.

7.  Education

Work plays a significant part of our lives and the University is committed to promoting health and safety at work. The University will provide employees with information on safe and sensible drinking and the risks associated with drug use. This information is available via the Wellbeing framework and can be found at

The University is committed to providing suitable and sufficient training to help managers enact this policy and support any employees with a problem. Managers should contact their HR Partner team for support with individual cases and training will be available through Organisational Development. This policy will be available on the Human Resources website as well as the University’s policy gateway.

8. Identifying a problem

Drug and alcohol misuse may manifest itself in a variety of ways. The following list of signals, particularly a number of them together, could indicate an issue. Please note this list is not exhaustive.

·       Persistent short-term absence.

·       Frequent unauthorised absence.

·       Recurrent small accidents.

·       Poor time keeping.

·       Inconsistency in work performance.

·       A breakdown in working relations.

·       Paranoia/aggression/mood swings/erratic behaviour.

·       Deterioration in physical appearance, such as dental problems and weight loss.

The aforementioned factors can also have a number of other attributable causes. The University therefore encourages managers to use all the information at their disposal starting with OH advice to identify a potential problem. Fellow colleagues may be the first to notice when an employee is misusing substances. If a member of staff suspects an alcohol or drug problem in a colleague, they should:

·         Encourage the person to seek help from external support agencies (see appendix 1) and

·         Report the matter to a manager, in all cases, but especially if the individual concerned does not accept they have an issue and/or they are in a safety critical job role.

9. Misconduct

This policy is principally concerned with supporting individuals to get the right support where they may have an issue with drug and/or alcohol misuse. This would normally be a capability issue as the problem will primarily impact on how the individual performs in their job. However, in circumstances where an employee breaches the policy on an individual basis, such as reporting to work drunk or under the influence of drugs, the disciplinary policy and procedure/Ordinance XXXV is more likely to apply, as the University will class this behaviour as a conduct issue. If an employee, for example, is violent at work whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, deals illicit substances on University property or is involved in any other serious incident, involving unlawful drugs or alcohol, the University may consider this to be gross misconduct which could result in summary dismissal under the appropriate disciplinary policy and procedure/Ordinance XXXV. In the case of any illegality, the University will, at its discretion, make a report to the Police. In all cases and in the interests of the safety of all who occupy the University’s campuses, the University reserve the right to act based on reasonable suspicion.

In cases where an employee admits to having a drug and/or alcohol misuse problem, the disciplinary process may be held in abeyance. This will be subject to the successful outcome of treatment and improvement of performance/job capability. If an employee subsequently admits to a drug and/or alcohol misuse problem following an instance that warrants disciplinary action as described above (not exhaustive), the University may undertake the support route as described in this policy and the disciplinary route in parallel.

10. Asking for help

This part of the procedure will be used when an employee who suspects they have a drug or alcohol problem wish to seek help at an early stage. In such instances, the University recognise that it is the discretion of the employee if they wish to inform their line manager.

Alternatively, a voluntary referral can be instigated when a manager, in consultation with an employee, refers them for help and the disciplinary process is not involved. The following principles should be observed:

  • Any employee experiencing problems with drug and/or alcohol misuse who wishes to seek help should, in the first instance, contact their line manager, who should then contact HR for advice. Should the employee feel uncomfortable speaking to their line manager, they make contact their relevant HR Partnering Team.

  • The line manager/HR Partner will see the employee and may advise them or, if the employee feels it appropriate, to refer them to OH who may in turn signpost them to a specialist agency. In either case an assessment of the nature and extent of the problem will be made and further action identified if appropriate.

  • If the programme requires absence from work or if the co-operation of the employee's manager is required, e.g. change of duties, the employee's consent to contact their management will be secured before these requirements are discussed with their manager. This is to ensure that adequate support is provided by the University. Reasonable absence will be permitted for the employee to attend for treatment. Pay will be subject to an individual’s sickness entitlement under the conditions of service relevant to them.

11.  Management intervention

Managers will offer support to employees who are suspected of having an alcohol or drug problem. Where it appears that an employee's drug and/or alcohol misuse use has interfered with job performance or conduct and where disciplinary measures are indicated, the following shall apply:

  • The Manager, as part of the University’s Disciplinary policy and procedure/Ordinance XXXV, will carry out a full investigation which will include interviewing the employee in the presence of their representative, should they choose to have one.
  • If appropriate, the employee shall be offered the opportunity of being referred to OH. Depending on the degree of severity of the incident the disciplinary process may be put in abeyance if the employee is willing to be assessed by OH. There may be circumstances where, even if the employee does co-operate with OH, they may be incapable of performing their current duties. In these circumstances the University reserves the right either to re-deploy, or suspend on medical grounds. Either of these decisions will be subject to periodic reviews.
  • If the employee accepts the offer of a referral, the Manager shall arrange an interview with OH via HR. The decision on whether or not to accept advice and follow a course of treatment is the personal choice of an individual employee. Reasonable absence with pay will be allowed for the employee to attend for treatment.
  • If an employee chooses not to accept the help offered, OH will inform management and the disciplinary process for the matter which initially drew attention to their problem will then be continued.
  • If an employee chooses to accept the help offered, an OH Adviser will speak to the employee and may arrange a referral with an appropriate external agency as appropriate.
  • If no drug and/or alcohol misuse related condition is identified, the disciplinary process will take its normal course, unless some other relevant health problem is discovered. In this case, management (with appropriate HR advice) will assess the appropriateness of continuing disciplinary action or supporting the employee with other specialised help/treatment.
  • If a problem is identified and the employee accepts the help provided and returns to an acceptable level of performance and/or conduct the problem will be deemed to be resolved and no action will be taken under the disciplinary policy and procedure/Ordinance XXXV. However, if it is felt that every effort is not being made by the employee to improve their performance or conduct, the manager will then decide whether they feel able to continue to provide support or revert to the disciplinary policy and procedure/Ordinance XXXV, having consulted OH. Timeframes applicable to this procedure will then apply.

Management reserve the right to supplement/replace this policy with the University’s Procedure for handling lack of capability/Ordinance XLI where an employee:

  • Does not have the necessary skills and aptitude to carry out the duties of their role satisfactorily, or
  • Does not have the physical and/or mental capacity to carry out the duties of their role satisfactorily


and this is not because of the effects of drug or alcohol misuse.

It must be stressed that even following this procedure, employees will always remain responsible for their own actions at all times.

12. Relapse

The University acknowledge that relapse is common with drug and alcohol misuse. To that end, the University will consider any relapse on a case-by-case basis, recognising the unique nature of each set of circumstances. During any review, the University will consider the needs of the School/Professional Service. Managers should ensure that employees are aware that disciplinary procedures may be instigated following subsequent relapses.

13. Return to work

Following the successful completion of treatment, the University will follow the process for a return to work as prescribed by the Managing the Sickness absence policy and procedure. This includes any supplementary action contained therein should the return to work be unsuccessful. During the return to work, managers should make sure that employees are aware that disciplinary procedures may be instigated following subsequent relapses.

14. Confidentiality

All appropriate staff, such as the line management, HR and OH, must maintain confidentiality for any employee who is experiencing problems with drug and alcohol misuse. Appropriate staff must not divulge information regarding individual cases to third parties. Information can only be divulged in cases where safety would be compromised by not doing so. Failure to adhere to this condition could result in disciplinary action being taken against the individual in breach of it.

15. Equal opportunities

This policy applies equally to all staff regardless of grade, experience or role within the University and in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

16. Monitoring and review

This policy will be subject to periodic monitoring in order to review how the policy works in practice.


Appendix 1 - External Support Agencies

Employee Assistance Programme

Telephone: 0800 030 5182

Web: (username ‘Loughborough’, password ‘University’)

Completely confidential support service for all University employees that includes counselling


Alcoholics Anonymous

Telephone: 0800 917 7650



Support to help with alcohol misuse and staying sober


Narcotics Anonymous

Telephone: 0330 999 1212


Support to help with drug misuse and staying clean




Practical help with managing alcohol use with advice and support for managers on the effects of alcohol on health and safety in the workplace


Alcohol Change


Practical online help for managing alcohol use with advice and support for managers on how to reduce the risks of alcohol abuse in the workplace



Telephone: 01785 810 762


Support dedicated to solvent abuse



Telephone: 0300 123 6600



National drugs information service


LiveWell Leicester


Practical online help for managing alcohol use



Telephone: 020 7324 2989



A national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law providing free, specialist advice and information to the public and professionals on issues related to drug use and drug laws


Council for Information on Tranquillisers, Antidepressants, and Painkillers (CITAp)

Telephone: 0151 932 0102 (Monday to Friday 10am-1pm, Weekends and Bank Holidays)



Provides support and information for individuals, families, friends and professional advisors dealing with prescribed tranquillisers, sleeping tablets, and antidepressants


NHS Direct


Round the clock advice for urgent medical problems



Telephone: 116 123

Confidential support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year


Turning Point

Telephone: 0330 303 6000 / 0808 800 3302



55-56 Woodgate, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 2TG

Support for people suffering from drug and alcohol problems

Drop-in service, one to one support, telephone advice and a variety of additional specialist services for advice and treatment


Leicester Royal Infirmary

Telephone: 999 in an emergency, otherwise 0330 303 1573

Closest accident and emergency department for urgent medical and psychiatric help


Recovery (Legal High Addiction)

Telephone: 0203 553 0324