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Working from home? You can still be fired for drinking on the job

Business Insider SA
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  • Think twice before reaching for that glass of wine while you are still on the clock - even though you are working from home.
  • Labour laws and company policies still apply, and that includes the consumption of alcohol and drugs, according to a legal expert.
  • Being drunk at work constitutes misconduct and an employee can be dismissed.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

It may be tempting to reward yourself with an afternoon drink between Zoom sessions while working from home, but think twice before reaching for that glass while you are still on the clock, a legal expert warns. 

While "WFH" has become the new normal for many as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, just because your employer may not physically be able to see you, labour laws and company policies still apply - and that includes the consumption of alcohol and drugs while on the clock, according to Aadil Patel, national head of the employment law practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

See also: From 'used bath water' to 'delectable': We rate SA's top alcohol-free beers

Being drunk at work constitutes misconduct and an employee can be dismissed, however, employers must have an alcohol (and drug abuse) policy which is communicated to all its employees. 

“Management is responsible for putting policies in place, not just for consumption on the premises – policies can extend to behaviour off company premises, during working hours in the event that it impacts the employee’s ability to do their job. Policies should not be limited to the consumption of alcohol, and should include any substance that prevents one from doing their duties, such as cannabis for example,” says Patel.

According to Patel, the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that “no person at a workplace shall be under the influence of or have in his or her possession or partake of or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs”. 

Patel advises, though, that employers treat each case on its own merit. “Alcoholism is an illness, therefore the distinction must be made between incapacity as a result of alcoholism or simple misconduct.

"If an employer suspects that a worker may have a dependency problem, the employer is under obligation to assist the worker to access treatment.” 

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