New Acas guidance to stamp out the use of legal highs in the workplace

capsules-385949_1920On 14 December 2015, Acas published a new guide to help employers deal with the increasing use of legal highs.

Legal highs or psychoactive substances are substances which imitate the effects of illegal drugs but are not actually illegal themselves. Last year there were 129 deaths in England, Scotland and Wales due to legal highs.

Acas report that employer calls to the Acas helpline about drug, alcohol and legal high use in the workplace are often about what can be done to prove someone is under the influence of substances, and what is the right action to take if they’ve seen an employee taking drugs or admitting to taking drugs on social media sites such as Facebook.

Acas Head of Information and Guidance, Stewart Gee, said:

“With Christmas parties already in full swing, it’s important to keep celebrations clean and enjoyable for all. Employers need to ensure that they have robust policies in place to avoid any ambiguity when it comes to the use of legal highs in the workplace.

“Many people may be unaware that whilst these substances can be obtained legally, using or consuming them could be banned under most workplaces’ drugs policies.

“Our new guide will help employers update their policies to ensure staff are aware that the use of legal highs is also unacceptable in the workplace.”

Acas’ new guide urges employers to:

  • Consider: including legal highs when writing drug and alcohol policies. Policies don’t have to be limited to what is and isn’t allowed in the law.
  • Act: it is a serious issue, so be clear in drugs and alcohol policies about all types of substance misuse whether this is legal or not. If policies are not clear enough, these should be updated accordingly.
  • Remind: employees that despite being technically legal, the use of legal highs is banned in most workplaces under the organisation’s drugs policy.
  • Read: the new Acas guide for helpful advice on how to get policies in place sooner rather than later.

Legislation is currently going through Parliament to ban the supply of drugs, based on their psychoactive effects. The Acas guide recommends agreeing standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours with employees now, by having clear drugs and alcohol policies that account for all types of substance misuse in the workplace whether these are legal or not.

If you need advice on how to deal with drug and alcohol issues in the workplace, please contact Helen Kay on or .

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