Par­ties bring risk to the work­place

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By JOHN BROS­NAN

As Christ­mas ap­proaches and the year winds to a close, most peo­ple like to so­cialise, re­lax and take stock of the year, and of­ten the boss will put on a few beers for the team to say thank you. Also it is a time of year where em­ploy­ees have quite a few so­cial func­tions of their own in ad­di­tion to any work re­lated func­tions and so are of­ten keen to fin­ish milk­ing and head off with friends.

Usu­ally peo­ple have a good time and be­have then that is great, how­ever the par­ty­ing can cause bad be­hav­iour that needs rec­ti­fy­ing quickly.

One is­sue is em­ploy­ees com­ing to work un­der the in­flu­ence of ei­ther al­co­hol or il­licit sub­stances or both. This cre­ates safety is­sues, work out­put is­sues, be­hav­iour is­sues – any­thing from attendance to other dis­rup­tions.

To pro­tect your­self, make sure your business poli­cies, usu­ally found in your farm hand­book and your em­ploy­ment agree­ment, have clauses mak­ing it a se­ri­ous mis­con­duct for an em­ployee to at­tend work in a state where they are sus­pected of be­ing unfit for work.

If you have staff turn up and you strongly sus­pect they are ‘‘ un­der the weather’’ from some­thing, you may be tempted to just send them home. You can make this leave with­out pay, but you would also want some sort of for­mal follow up, and from this you must keep good writ­ten records doc­u­ment­ing why the em­ployee was sent home and ev­ery­thing that then fol­lows.

The more for­mal ap­proach, and one you could rely on later if needed, would be to re­quest that they ac­com­pany you to the doc­tors (at your cost) for a blood test, or you could have a qual­i­fied per­son come on farm to con­duct ran­dom drug and al­co­hol test­ing.

As an em­ployer you are en­ti­tled to do this. Note here that safety con­cerns and pro­tect­ing em­ploy­ees and staff from ac­ci­dents en­able em­ploy­ers to act on th­ese con­cerns, but we do strongly rec­om­mend that your work place should have a ro­bust drugs and al­co­hol pol­icy as well.

If the em­ployee re­fuses to ac­com­pany you for th­ese tests in work time and at your cost, then as an em­ployer you are able to rely on the as­sump­tion that they have some­thing to hide and may pro­ceed with for­mal ac­tion in terms of your poli­cies and em­ploy­ment agree­ments.

Most peo­ple will not be a prob­lem and the chance to re­lax to­gether will be wel­come and fun. But if you also plan for the un­wanted in­ci­dent, then hope­fully that won’t hap­pen ei­ther.

John Bros­nan

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