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He’s a Celebrity, but should we get him out of here?

As we all know from the recent press coverage, Ant McPartlin, one half of ITV’s biggest presenting duo, has stepped down from his presenting role with ITV following his arrest on suspicion of drink-driving.

The situation must be presenting his employers with a headache – should he stay or should he go?

If he is dismissed, presumably on the grounds that he has brought the organisation into disrepute, then that affects ITV’s own reputation in both a positive and negative way.  On a positive view, it shows that they are not condoning such behaviour. Television presenters are icons to a lot of people, including the younger generation (my own children regularly disagree on whether they are on Team Ant or Team Dec when it comes to  Saturday Night Takeaway!)  The negative for ITV is that they are then losing their profit from not having their most popular presenters on their network.

While no decision has yet been made by ITV over Ant’s future with the broadcaster, the position that has been put forward is very much that ITV is supporting Ant and that they “very much hope that he gets the help that he needs.”

One can assume from that that they are supporting Ant in the treatment that he is going to receive for his addictions, but the question which must be in the minds of many employers is what would I do if that was my employee?

The issue with drug and alcohol addiction these days is that although being a drug addict or an alcohol addict are not conditions which are covered as disabilities under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee is in a situation where they have a condition which has arisen as a result of their addictions, then that condition may be covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Therefore, you should have a substance misuse policy.  Such a policy would set out your intention of supporting the employee in getting treatment for their addictions, but at the same time would specify what the consequences would be where they to fail to take up that offer of support.

As part of your support for your employee, you should be considering whether or not to refer them to appropriate treatment providers and allowing them time off work to attend such treatment and, depending on the nature of the work, you might want to adjust their duties.

You may also want to ensure that your policy contains a right to search an employee’s lockers and desks, etc so that you can ensure that an employee is complying with the company’s no drugs and alcohol policy.

The most important thing to remember is that you cannot do all of this in secret. The employee must be aware of what you are doing and you must obtain their consent to carry out a search, or alternatively to contact their GP or Occupational Health professional for the guidance of helping them to deal with their addictions.

Remember too that you cannot dismiss without having a fair reason for the dismissal and having carried out a fair and reasonable procedure, otherwise you could be facing a claim for unfair dismissal. Therefore, even if the treatment is unsuccessful or the employee does not consent to the referral, then the fact that you can show that you’ve tried to support the employee will stand you in better stead before an Employment Tribunal. A Tribunal will always want to know if the employee knew what was expected of them and the best way for an employer to show that is to have a written policy.

If you have any queries on how you should deal with an employee whom you suspect to be using drugs or alcohol at work or you require a substance misuse policy, then please contact Julie Sullivan at jks@businesslaw.co.uk for guidance on how to do that.

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