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Dealing with Employees Under the Influence of Drink While on Duty


Tue 24 January, 2017

Drunk worker

When snaps emerged of a sozzled looking Wayne Rooney following an international match it sparked widespread debate about his fitness to lead his country.

The England football captain has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by bosses at the Football Association (FA) in relation to his behaviour the day after the victory against Scotland. (1)

What was key to controversy was whether or not the player was still on international duty when he was pictured playing the piano and looking the worse for wear at a wedding party while still wearing his England tracksuit.

The images received widespread media coverage and Rooney labelled his treatment a ‘disgrace’ while Martin Glenn, chief executive of the FA, reportedly criticised the player for not setting the right tone. (2)

What the incident did was highlight a problem faced by employers across the country in regards to how do you deal with an employee who appears intoxicated while on duty?

Most disciplinary policies will list working under the influence of alcohol as an act of gross misconduct.

A study carried out last year revealed that one in three employees, of the 2,600 quizzed for the research, admitted being drunk at work. (3)

The employer should speak to the member of staff to establish the extent of their condition in order to discover if they are capable of performing their duties, pose a risk to others or if they have brought the organisation into disrepute.

Depending on the seriousness of the breach of company policy concerns about the employee’s intoxication should normally be dealt with using the disciplinary procedure.

As with any disciplinary matter employers need to investigate properly, and establish the facts before making any decisions.

If an employee suffers from an alcohol-related illness this should be given carefully consideration, as dismissing an employee with such an illness can be found to be unfair in certain circumstances. (4)

The Health and Safety Executive has produced a guide for employers on alcohol at work, which is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. (5)


1. Rooney cleared over drinking storm [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from:

2. Wayne Rooney calls coverage of drinking controversy “disgraceful” [Internet]. The Independent. 2016 [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from:

3. Third of employees drunk at work once a week | Acas [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from:

4. Employee who attended work drunk was unfairly dismissed | Editor’s choice | Tools | [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from:

5. Don’t mix it: A guide for employers on alcohol at work [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from:




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