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In McElroy v Cambridge Community Services NHS Trust, an employment tribunal held that an NHS trust unfairly dismissed an employee who was reported for coming to work smelling of alcohol, without further evidence that he was unfit for work.
The healthcare assistant was investigated following a report that he had come to work smelling of alcohol. He maintained that he had only had a few drinks the night before.
The tribunal highlighted that there was no evidence of impairment to function. No one had expressed any concern about the claimant’s behaviour, or suggested that he had been acting drunk.
The employment tribunal held that smelling of alcohol at work was not by itself sufficient to constitute gross misconduct justifying dismissal under the trust’s disciplinary procedure and substance misuse policy.
The tribunal also found that it was unreasonable for the claimant’s refusal to participate in an occupational health referral to be added to the reasons for dismissal.
This case highlights the care that needs to be taken when disciplining, or dismissing, an employee who has been drinking and alleged to be under the influence of alcohol at work.
Andrew Macmillan, Solicitor, Motor Industry Legal Services