Abuse Bosses Should Not Sack the Drug Abusers

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Byline: ANNIE BROWN

EMPLOYERS are being urged by the Government not to sack staff who are using illegal drugs and give them paid time off for counselling instead.

New guidelines advise employers to treat drug addiction as an illness and claim employees should be given as much sick time as they need to undergo full rehabilitation.

But last night the guidelines, issued by the Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish Office, were dismissed as impractical by businesses which claimed they should not foot the bill for substance misuse.

The Federation of Small Businesses said 97 per cent of companies employed under 20 workers and could not afford to wait for staff to recover from an addiction.

Spokesman John Downie said: 'This is a social problem and not a work problem.

'It would just not be practical for employers to give their workers paid time off work while they go through rehabilitation; there isn't normally the staff to replace them. Every employee has to be relied upon in a small team.'

The call for employers to tolerate drug users was made by Dr Pamela Jeffrey, head of the HSE Employment Medical Advisory Service in Scotland.

She said a large proportion of workers were using drugs and many of them faced the sack if they were caught.

But she claimed: 'This approach is unlikely to be satisfactory and employers can develop a policy on drug misuse, in consultation with their employees, which will help them tackle the problem in a way which is positive and supportive, as well as being firm but fair. …