Addiction will eventually impact every part of someone’s life. If you use drugs, then it may come to affect your work performance and leave you at risk of negative consequences. Whether you are a drug user asking the question, “Can I get sacked for taking drugs outside of work?” or an employer wanting some guidance – it’s important to know the law, the impact of drug use on work performance and what can be done if the situation arises.

Addiction Advocates can help with drug rehab options and guide employers and employees alike.


Can You Get Sacked for Taking Drugs Outside of Work?

You can be sacked for taking drugs outside of work, but only if it affects your work performance. What you do in your own time and outside of the office is not immediately grounds for dismissal.

Legally, employers have a duty of care to those that work for them. The Health & Safety Work Act 1974 charges employers to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees. At the same time, employees have to take care of the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions.

The legal consequence of drug use can affect both the employer and employee if it is well-known and nothing is done about it.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Road Traffic Act 1988 directly relate to drug and alcohol use. Once again, you, as an employer or employee, can be liable to a police charge through these acts.

You can especially be liable if you work with heavy machinery or transport. The Transport and Works Act 1992 lays out the offences surrounding drug misuse when operating heavy machinery or working on railways and other transport systems.

The important thing to take away is that even if drug use is done outside of work – if it begins to impact your performance at work, it can become a sackable offence.


Impact of Drug Use on Work Performance

The effects of drug use on work performance can be immediate to the person and far-reaching for the company as a whole.

  • Mental Health – Addiction and mental health are closely linked. Drug use will make these problems worse and could cause any number of problems to a person. Mental health issues may cause a person to isolate, negatively impact relationships in the workplace or be a danger to themselves if they are suicidal.
  • Productivity – A person addicted to drugs may be less productive at work. The quality and quantity of work may decrease as the person is more absent, disinterested in work or lacking in clear judgement and concentration.
  • Safety – If you are in a potentially dangerous workplace, drugs make it more so. Drugs will impair a person physically and mentally. Poor decision-making or slow reactions could cost their life, work or someone else’s.
  • Morale – If your or someone else’s problem is known but ignored, this can impact everyone in the workplace. If their attitude is bad due to drug use or they are erratic, this will filter through the office. It could lead to productivity and mental health issues in others.


Ethical Considerations for Employers

It’s a hard tightrope to walk for employers. A big part of the ethical considerations revolves around drug testing in the workplace. If you want to implement testing, then you have to consider things such as privacy and morale. On the other hand, safety in the workplace is paramount, and drug testing can ensure that issues are caught and dealt with before the worst happens.

If a drug use problem emerges, you, as an employee, must decide how to balance support and punishment. Safety and care are key, but you also owe a duty of care to the person doing drugs. Offering support and paths for rehabilitation is just as important as being swift in getting them out of the work environment. Creating a culture of understanding and not condemnation can create a more productive workplace.

As an employer, you must take it on a case-by-case basis. In every instance, you have to keep in mind you are responsible for the health, safety and care of those you employ.


Tips for Addressing Drug Use in the Workplace

Facing up to addiction in the workplace may be something you encounter. Whether you are an employer or a fellow employee, it’s important to have some idea about how to deal with the situation in a swift and understanding way. Here are some things you can do to address drug use in the workplace.

Recognise Signs of Addiction

Knowing the signs of drug abuse and addiction is critical to dealing with the issue. The higher-ups in a company should, at the very least, be aware of the signs of addiction. Looking out for common signs such as sudden poor work performance, mood changes, regular sick days and disinterest in work.

Act Swiftly

If you stick your head in the sand and refuse to deal with the substance abuse problem, you are not only endangering the addict but everyone in the workplace. Taking action early and swiftly means there is less risk legally, too, especially if you’re in a business that deals with heavy machinery or healthcare. Many rehab centres have referral services for friends and colleagues who can advise you on the next steps.

Establish a Drug Policy

A clear policy is vital when dealing with drug use and employment. Everyone in the company can benefit from a clear policy that shows what to expect if drug or alcohol use becomes a problem. A policy can make clear the action that will be taken, whether it be disciplinary or the support that will be available. If you want to have drug screening, then this can be part of the policy as well.

Educate the Workplace

Beyond a policy, you can educate employees. Taking time to talk about the dangers of addiction, the support available to those struggling and informing everyone about the drug policy is important to creating a better work environment. If everyone is more well-informed, then there is better understanding. People may be less likely to hide and reach out for help.


Find Help Today

Addiction Advocates is a service that can help you or someone you know find the right private drug and alcohol rehab. We can guide you through every step of the admissions process so that help gets to those who need it.

Beyond our help, there are many resources available to you if you are worried about your drug use. Calling your GP is a good first step. There are also Narcotics Anonymous support groups out there and helplines such as FRANK, Release and many others.

Find help today by contacting Addiction Advocates at 0800 012 6088 or text HELP to 83222.


  • [1] The Health & Safety Work Act 1974 -
  • [2] The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 -
  • [3] Road Traffic Act 1988 -
  • [4] The Transport and Works Act 1992 -
  • [5] Narcotics Anonymous -
  • [6] FRANK -
  • [7] Release -