According to the conciliation service, ACAS, there has been an increase in recent years in the number of deaths in England and Wales owing to “legal highs”, legal substances such as solvents, bath salts, incense or plant food which imitate the effects of illegal drugs when consumed.
As such substances contain ingredients that haven’t been tested for human consumption, their effects can be hard to predict and, in some cases, fatal. In an effort to combat this, the Psychoactive Substance Bill, which aims to control the use of such psychoactive substances, is currently making its way through Parliament.
In light of this, ACAS has this week published some guidance for employers on its website, urging employers to consider legal highs as well as alcohol and illegal substances when writing their drug and alcohol policies. The guidance suggests that policies should educate managers on the signs of drug use, as well as encourage users to seek help for their problems. According to ACAS’s Head of Information and Guidance, Stewart Gee: “with Christmas parties already in full swing, it’s important to keep celebrations clean and enjoyable for all. Employers need to ensure they have robust policies in place to avoid any ambiguity when it comes to the use of legal highs in the workplace”. He added, “many people may be unaware that whilst these substances can be obtained legally, using or consuming them could be banned under most workplace’s drugs policies”.
Employers would therefore be wise to revisit their drug and alcohol policies to ensure that there is a clear policy on legal as well as illegal highs, so that employees are clear on the standard of behaviour that is expected of them and the consequences of failing to meet these standards. If you don’t already have a drug and alcohol policy in place then we recommend that you consider implementing one – we are currently reviewing our drug and alcohol policy on Buddy in light of this guidance.