The government has launched its annual drink-driving campaign and this year’s focus is the impact a criminal record may have on employment prospects. The campaign states that millions risk losing their job or face difficulty getting work if they drink and drive this Christmas.
According to the press release, one million people work in jobs they could lose as a result of a drink-drive conviction and a further survey revealed that one third of people would have to give up their job because they rely on a car to get to work.
Not only do people risk losing their current job but they could also be denied access to a number of jobs in the future which are subject to a criminal record check (for example driving jobs, teachers and finance).
Handling a drink driving employment issue can be a logistical nightmare for employers. Here are some of the key employment issues employers should focus on:
1. Employers should consider making it a contractual requirement for employees to notify them immediately of any drink driving conviction during their employment. Where employees are required to drive for business purposes, a conviction is likely to have an impact on the employer’s insurance policy.
2. Implementing an alcohol abuse policy is a sensible course of action for employers. Such a policy should require employees to comply with drink driving legislation at all times. Employers should also make it clear in any such policy that a drink driving conviction may lead to disciplinary action under the disciplinary procedure which could amount to a dismissal.
3. Employers can’t automatically dismiss an employee who is convicted of drink driving. The appropriate course of action will depend very much on the circumstances of the case, the employee’s contract of employment and the nature of the employee’s role. For example, it is highly likely that a lorry driver convicted of drink driving during working hours could be dismissed fairly for gross misconduct. Other cases are less clear cut, for example an employee who is convicted for drink driving on his/her own time and who does not need to drive for their role. The employer would need to consider the contract of employment and possible reputational risk. One point which is clear is that employers should ensure they act consistently, follow a fair procedure and should not jump to straight to dismissal.
4. Employers should be mindful that a drink driving conviction may be indicative of an underlying problem and as such employers may wish to consider counselling/pastoral support for the employee. Although alcoholism is specifically excluded as a disability and so does not fall within the Equality Act 2010, it can be classed as a serious illness and so employees should be treated fairly.
As with most things, it is sensible to be proactive rather than reactive. Employers should ensure policies and contracts of employment are in shape dealing with all of the above. Employers may also want to consider sending a responsible message out to employees informing them that they take drink driving very seriously and encouraging them to have a safe Christmas. The message can focus on the importance to the employer of the health and welfare of its workforce, together with its own social responsibility.