First it must be established whether the employee has an alcohol dependency problem and whether it was merely a once-off case of misconduct. In the latter case, the following factors must be taken into account in the decision on an appropriate sanction:
- The nature of the employee’s work determines the seriousness of the offence: the more complex the work, the greater the responsibility in terms of potential injury and damage.
- The employee’s disciplinary record.
- The circumstances regarding the offence, for example whether it was a once-off incident where the employee had attended a bachelor party the previous evening.
- The consequences of the offence, for example damage to the employer’s reputation.
However, should the employee claim that he was addicted to alcohol, the employer may insist on proof of this claim such as a psychologist’s report. If it is indeed the case, the employer may not treat it as misconduct, but rather as incapacity due to ill health. In this case, counselling and rehabilitation must be considered first before the employee can be dismissed. However, the employer is under no obligation to pay for the rehabilitation.
The following factors must be taken into account before a person may be dismissed:
- Is the employee still capable of doing his/her job? If so, to what extent?
- To what extent can the employee’s working conditions or duties be adjusted to accommodate the incapacity?
- Are any other jobs available (for example, for a driver to perform administrative duties instead)?
However, it is your duty as an employee to be honest with your employer and to inform him if you have a dependency problem. If your employer dismisses you for misconduct while you actually have a problem, the dismissal will be fair if you did not divulge your problem.
Author: Danie van Graan