What To Do When an Employee Appears Impaired at Work

Many managers have had an employee or supervisor come to them to share that they suspect a co-worker may be “under the influence” or report that a co-worker smells of alcohol.  When this happens, the manager must act immediately by documenting the observations of the reporting employee.  Specifics such as what the person saw, smelled or heard.  Only facts should be recorded suchs as ” Sally smelled like alcohol and was slurring her words” rather than “Sally was drunk as a skunk”.

The manager should observe the employee right away and preferably with another party.  If the manager is not in the same location, then he or she should make arrangements to have one or two other managers observe the employee and document what they saw.  If the manager also observes the employee to appear to be impaired or smelling of alcohol, the employee should be met with immediately.  If your company has an HR department, your HR manager should also be involved in the meeting.

It is important during this meeting to stick to the facts and remember that if someone is under the influence of a mood altering substance, their judgement and mood will be impaired.  This is not the time to get into discipline or consequences but to ensure the safety of the employee and fellow co-workers as well as to dertermine if there is a violation of company policy.  Whether the employee admits or denies being under the influence, the employer should send the employee for a drug test or breath test for documentation purposes.   A manager should drive the employee to the testing facility and make arrangements for him or her to arrive home safely from the testing facility after the test and for the remainder of the work shift.  When you receive the test results, you shoudl review them with the employee, discuss discplinary action and make a referral to the employee assistance program. If you have a drug testing policy, you can provide the employee with a Last Chance Agreement which will require an assessment by the EAP, and follow through with EAP recommendations.

If you do not have a drug testing policy, you can still refer the employee to the EAP, remove him or her from work and require a medical assessment or drug test but it would be wise to consult with your attorney if you have concerns.

Remember, it is very important to never diagnose or assume.  We once had an employee who arrived at work smelling like alcohol and behaving irraticaly.  After being referred for a drug test and then a medical evaluation, it was determined that he had undiagnosed, severe diabetes and he was on his way to a diabetic coma . The test and referral to the EAP actually saved his life.

The EAP counselors cannot reveal any personal information without the employee’s written consent but the counselor will let you know if the employee is compliant.

Reasonable suspicion drug testing can be a very stressful experience for a manager.  If you are unsure how to proceed, call the EAP for guidance.


Employee Assistance Programs Lead to Healthier, More Productive Employees

EmployeesMorneau Shepell, the largest Employee Assistance firm in Canada, released a new study that said that intervention through employee assistance programs leads to improved employee mental health and higher productivity, as well as a reduction of 25 percent in costs due to lost productivity.

The study collected data to measure four specific outcomes: general health status, mental health status, productivity, and absenteeism.  Here are some of its findings:

  • Employees rated their mental status 15 percent higher after receiving EAP support.
  • EAP intervention resulted in a 34 percent reduction in costs related to lost productivity.
  • Before EAP intervention, decreased productivity and absence was costing organizations almost $20,000 per employee per year.

75 percent of North American businesses have an employee assistance program and they are a key component of employee benefit plans.  The Morneau Shepell study made two key recommendations:

1. Organizations should develop a more strategic partnership with their EAP provider as a first step in reallizing the return on investment.  The provider can recommend strategies to optimize the use of the EAP as a preventative measure with the objective of saving costs on the bottom line and using the EAP to support the organization’s health priorities.

2. Organizations should consider a strategic approach to absence management, cost management and strategies related to employee engagement and retention.

For more information about this study go to http://bit.ly/kZ2Xx1

While 75 percent of employers may have an EAP, all programs are not alike.  Employers should investigate their vendors to be sure they are meeting the needs of their company. The company contact or HR representative should have a good relationship with their EAP provider, with the ability to consult or to seek management assistance on a range of personnel issues.

Your EAP should be your partner in assisting with your employees’ emotional health.  The more the employee assistance program is supported by management and  promoted and marketed to employees, the more it will be used.

Healthy, happy and engaged employees will save their employers thousands in lost productivity,  morale issues, performance problems and health insurance claims.   Employees who feel supported by their employer will be loyal in both good and bad economic times.

Fully Effective Employees