Can you send an employee home for having a hangover? 

Home » Disciplinary and Dismissal » Can you send an employee home for having a hangover? 

As St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, your employees may be hungover or drunk at work.

The St. Patrick’s Day parades are cancelled, but staff may still be worse for wear the following morning.

What are your rights when dealing with this matter?

Problems with workplace hangovers

  • Lower productivity.
  • Reduced workplace morale.
  • Customer service is of a lower standard.
  • Co-ordination, attention span and reaction speed is slowed.
  • Employee suspension or termination.

How do you manage an employee that is over the limit at work?

HR Team Director, Breda Cullen, says: “It is recommended to have a witness while you hold a meeting to determine the cause for the behavior.

“The manager should bring them into a confidential setting in the first instance. Ask the employee if they are taking any medication that might impair their judgement.

“Secondly, ask if they have an underlying medical condition.

“Once this has been established and you remain sure the employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs; you may ask the staff member directly if they have consumed alcohol in the last 24 hours.

“If there is a reasonable belief that an employee has come into work still intoxicated, employers will need to suspend the person on full pay, carry out an investigation and consider disciplinary action.”

Can an employee be sent home for having a hangover?

This depends on the circumstances as every case is different. However, find out important information in a confidential setting to question if they have an underlying medical condition or if the employee is taking medication, in case it is not a hangover.

“If employers have a reasonable belief that the person is suffering from a hangover and they are not able to perform their job adequately or if this impairs either the business or the health and safety of the employee or others in the workplace, then you may suspend the worker on full pay depending on an informal investigation.

“Once the facts are established, you may proceed on a disciplinary hearing if you have the grounds to do so,” says Breda.

Employers Q&A

Are you liable if your employee is driving over the limit?

If your employee is operating in a company vehicle within business hours. The employee is the individual breaking the law. However, employers have a duty to impose disciplinary proceedings. You are not liable for prosecution, but you are by law required to enforce disciplinary action.

Should you have a breathalyser at work?

Employers have a right to breathalyse employees at work given they consent to it.

From an employment law point of view, you need to have an intoxicants policy and a drugs and alcohol drugs and consent form policy. Particularly in a workplace where employees are operating heavy machinery or driving company vehicles it would be recommended to have drugs and alcohol testing.

What happens if the employee refuses to provide consent?

The employer needs to question why they are not providing consent and they can possibly make a determination on that basis. Under data protection you must request the staff members consent first.

If you would like further advice in any aspect of employment law of HR management we offer services to cater to your unique business needs. Contact us today from ROI: +353 1 695 0749 and the UK: +44 2871 271882.

Get Started Now

Employment law and health & safety compliance, HR best practice and increased staff performance are just a click away.