Alcohol, Drug, and Substance Misuse Policy

Updated on 28 June 2022

Policy detailing the system under which the University may refer for help those members of staff with alcohol, drug, or substance related problems.

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Policy statement

The University of Dundee recognises its primary responsibilities to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all staff. The University does not condone the excessive and/or inappropriate use of alcohol, nor the misuse of drugs/substances, whether illicit or prescribed. It recognises that a safe and healthy working environment is put at risk by employees who use alcohol and other drugs/substances in such a way that their health, work performance, conduct or relationships at work are adversely affected.

The University therefore encourages staff with alcohol and drug/substance related problems to seek help voluntarily and is committed to supporting the member of staff through this process in accordance with the Policy on Alcohol, Drug and Substance Misuse. The policy, which applies equally to all members of staff, provides a fair and consistent system under which the University may refer for help those members of staff with alcohol and drug/substance related problems.

A member of staff who is undergoing treatment in accordance with this policy shall suffer no detriment in the application of promotion or any other procedure.


Alcohol, drug and substance misuse is defined as "the intermittent or continual use of alcohol or any drug or other substance which causes detriment to the member of staff's health, functioning, or performance at work, and which affects efficiency, productivity, safety, attendance, time keeping or conduct in the workplace".

Aims of the policy

The aims of the policy are:

  • to reduce the incidence of alcohol and drugs/substance related work impairment
  • to create a climate which encourages the member of staff not to conceal or deny alcohol and drug/substance related problems but to seek appropriate help
  • offer staff, who are known to have alcohol or drug/substance related problems affecting their work, referral to Occupational Health and/or an appropriate agency for guidance and, if necessary, treatment
  • whenever possible , to secure the complete rehabilitation of staff with alcohol or drug/substance related problems and their return to an acceptable level of performance at work
  • to reduce the likelihood of disciplinary action resulting from alcohol or drug/substance misuse

Application of the policy

The University will offer encouragement and assistance to members of staff who suspect or know that they have an alcohol or drug/substance related problem to seek help voluntarily at an early stage from an appropriate agency or via the established procedures.

Any member of staff who appears to be incapable of working effectively or safely apparently due to alcohol and/or substance misuse, will be interviewed by his/her Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director or their Deputy or nominee and, if appropriate, sent home pending further investigation. Any suspension from duty will be on full pay and details relating to the suspension will subsequently be confirmed in writing.

If through the course of an investigatory meeting or disciplinary proceedings, alcohol or drug/substance related problems are identified, the member of staff will immediately be given the opportunity to seek assessment and treatment as necessary from appropriate agencies via Occupational Health. Where disciplinary procedures have been initiated they will be stopped.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the University will report to the Police all incidents involving the supply or taking of illegal drugs on the premises as required by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In these circumstances, the University will reserve the right to decide whether or not disciplinary action will proceed during or following any subsequent police action.

Roles and responsibilities


It is the responsibility of each individual member of staff to ensure that they are in a fit state to work. All staff are responsible for timely attendance at their work and for ensuring that their perception and performance of duties are unimpaired by alcohol or drugs.

The University does not exercise a ban on the consumption of alcohol in a social situation during the working day (e.g. lunchtime events, exhibitions etc). However, members of staff are expected to exercise appropriate self-control over their alcohol consumption to ensure that their work performance or behaviour is not impaired or adversely affected. Cultural sensitivities and the good reputation of the University should also be considered in these circumstances.

Staff who will be driving, using machinery, working at heights, or working in laboratories or workshops should not drink any alcohol or take drugs during the working day. This applies to all staff. If in doubt about the safety of prescribed medications staff should check with their GP or Occupational Health. Staff should refrain from drinking alcohol for at least 8 hours before driving or undertaking such activities mentioned above, and should be aware that drugs and a high intake of alcohol may affect performance and perception for a longer period.

If a member of staff does feel that they might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, they should try and seek help voluntarily and as soon as they can. Their first point of contact may be with their own GP, a specialist/help organisation (details at end of policy), the University (or external) Counselling Services or with Occupational Health.

Alternatively contact can be made with the member of staff's supervisor, Discipline Lead /Dean of School/Director or Human Resources Officer. Enquires will be kept confidential but reference may need to be made to Occupational Health or other agencies with specialist expertise. This will not be done without the individual's consent.

Discipline lead, Dean of School, or Director

The Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director has a direct responsibility for all staff in his/her area including any member of staff who appears to have an alcohol or drugs/substance misuse problem.

If the Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director is concerned about a member of staff and believes that they have a drugs/substance misuse problem, they should raise this directly with the member of staff, highlighting aspects of performance or behaviour giving rise to the concern and encouraging the member of staff to talk freely about any problems. If an alcohol or drugs/substance related problem is acknowledged or suspected, an appropriate referral should be made to Occupational Health via Human Resources and the steps outlined in this procedure followed.

It is recognised that other members of staff and students may be affected by a colleague's alcohol or drugs/substance related problem, and that during the treatment of a member of staff, the Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director involved does also need to take reasonable steps to safeguard their interests and to identify and assess risks within their area of responsibility.

Role of Human Resources

The HR Officer will be responsible for facilitating the provisions of appropriate professional support and treatment for the member of staff and will liaise with Occupational Health and the Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director regarding the work situation.

Role of Occupational Health

Occupational Health will make an assessment of the member of staff's condition and agree with him/her the support and/or treatment that is likely to be most effective. Occupational Health will make the necessary referral to the relevant agencies and review the member of staff's progress.

Occupational Health will advise Human Resources of the aspects of the conditions that should be taken into account in the work situation.

Role of Counselling

The Counselling Service cannot provide a stand alone, comprehensive treatment for serious long standing drug or alcohol misuse concerns. However counsellors can support and facilitate access to other high level specialist services. Along side this they can provide consistent and in depth support to address the issues that may have lead to the need to misuse drugs or alcohol.

They will also provide emotional support during a process of recovery or abstinence from drug or alcohol misuse. The content of counselling sessions will remain confidential unless the staff member in question or others are in danger of harm.

Professionals assisting the staff member, including the Counselling Service, will share information to an extent made clear to, and agreed by, the individual concerned, in order to ensure that the work of various services complement each other and provide the most appropriate support package possible.

Those attending counselling under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be seen during their planned appointment and may be asked to return at another time when they are more able to fully engage in the counselling process.


The identity and records of members of staff known to have alcohol or drug related problems will be kept in the strictest of confidence except, in exceptional circumstances, where there is judged to be an unacceptable risk to the individual, other people or to the University itself.

It may be necessary as described above to involve other professionals involved in the case in the discussion about how the member of staff can be enabled to remain at work whilst support, treatment etc are ongoing. In these circumstances the individual will be consulted and supported and encouraged to discuss issues with relevant people.

Referral and treatment procedures

Voluntary referral

Where a member of staff wants to seek help through the policy (and they have not made direct contact with Occupational Health, Counselling Service or any other agency), he or she should contact Human Resources.

A member of staff from Human Resources will meet with the member of staff as soon as possible and arrange an early appointment with Occupational Health. Occupational Health will arrange for an assessment to take place if appropriate.

A member of staff may be accompanied by a colleague or his or her trade union representative to Occupational Health and to any Assessment /Treatment Agency used by Occupational Health.

Referral by the University

Where a member of staff has performance or conduct problems at work and the cause of which is known or suspected to be alcohol or drugs/substance related, the Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director or their deputy or nominee will meet with the member of staff in the normal course of trying to rectify the problem. They will contact Human Resources and offer the member of staff an appropriate referral to Occupational Health as a possible alternative to invoking disciplinary procedures.

Alternatively where it emerges in the course of an investigation or disciplinary proceedings that the conduct of the member of staff may have been affected by the misuse of alcohol or drugs or substance abuse, the University will refer the member of staff to Occupational Health (who will work with an appropriate Assessment /Treatment Agency) and will set up a system of reciprocal reporting.

A member of staff may be accompanied by a colleague or his or her trade union representative to any meetings, including those with Occupational Health and the Assessment/Treatment Agency.

Where a referral is accepted, any disciplinary proceedings will stop, pending the outcome of assessment and treatment and provided an acceptable level of performance and behaviour is maintained throughout the treatment period.

If Occupational Health or the Assessment /Treatment Agency indicates that no alcohol or drugs/substance related problems exists, any disciplinary proceedings will resume.

Disciplinary proceedings will also resume if a member of staff declines an offer of referral, or discontinues a course of treatment (as advised by Occupational Health) before its satisfactory completion.

If the course of agreed treatment is satisfactorily concluded, any disciplinary actions shall remain suspended.

If further alcohol or drugs/substance related problems occur, Occupational Health and the agency that was previously involved, will be consulted before the University decides whether or not to invoke disciplinary proceedings.

Leave for treatment

The member of staff will normally be granted reasonable paid time off to undergo treatment (whether as an inpatient or outpatient), counselling, or attendance at self-help groups. Such leave will be treated as sick leave within the terms of the University Sick Pay scheme and must be reported in accordance with the University policy on reporting sickness absence. Alternatively absence may be for a specific appointment in which case procedures relating to hospital appointments apply. It should be noted that in many cases there need be no absence from work.

The member of staff will be offered the opportunity to seek treatment on the understanding that he or she will be required to attend meetings with his or her Discipline Lead/Dean of School/Director or their nominee, and a member of staff from Human Resources to review his/her situation and progress. The member of staff may be accompanied by a colleague or union representative to any of these meetings.

On return to work after absence due to treatment, risk assessments will be carried out to identify adjustments necessary to reduce the likelihood of recurrence of the problems.


If, after a period of treatment, the member of staff's alcohol or drugs/substance related problems reappear at work, the case will be considered again. Advice will be taken from Occupational Health and the relevant Assessment/Treatment Agency and a decision will then be made whether a further opportunity to provide help and treatment can be offered by the University.

Sources of advice and voluntary agencies

University Occupational Health Department
+44 (0)1382 345410

University Counselling Service
+44 (0)1382 384164

Tayside Council on Alcohol
+44 (0)1382 223965

Dundee Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service (DDARS)
+44 (0)1382 424533

Alcoholics Anonymous
+44 (0)800 9177 650 

+44 (0)800 917 8282

Scottish Drugs Forum
+44 (0)141 221 1175

FRANK: Honest information about drugs
+44 (0)800 77 66 00

Corporate information category Health and safety