Legal highs – making sure your employees understand workplace rules - Palmers Solicitors

Legal highs – making sure your employees understand workplace rules

There has been an increase during recent years in the sale and use of so called ‘legal highs’. The term covers substances which imitate the effects of illegal drugs when consumed, but are not actually illegal themselves.

Many substances, which initially surfaced as legal highs, have since been re-categorised as illegal under a temporary banning order, as part of the Misuse of Drugs Act; but new substances – yet to be controlled – continue to emerge on the market.

The risks associated with these substances should not be underestimated. During 2014 in England, Scotland and Wales there were a reported 129 deaths, where new psychoactive substances were implicated.

In an attempt to control the use of these potentially lethal substances, the Government plans to introduce new legislation which aims to ban the sale of all psychoactive (or mind altering) substances. There will be a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol, coffee and medicines which are regulated elsewhere, as well as drugs already banned under Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Lara Murray, Palmers’ specialist in employment compliance, said: “As legal highs are currently sold openly in shops or online, many users may not fully realise the effects they might have. Employers also need to be aware of their impact on their employees and workplaces.

“Workplace alcohol and drugs policies don’t have to be limited to what is and isn’t allowed in the law. The use of alcohol is not illegal, yet most companies will have a ban or limit on alcohol consumption during working hours. Legal highs should be treated in the same way and built into alcohol and drugs policies.

“If an organisation’s policy includes drug testing this may be more challenging when trying to identify legal highs as the compounds they contain change regularly. It may be easier for the policy to focus on the effects the drugs have on employees in terms of their behaviours and ability to work, rather than the drugs themselves.

“Policies should encourage users to seek help for their problems and educate staff and line managers on the signs of drug use and what to be aware of. Dealing with someone who has a problem with using legal highs should be approached in the same way as any other workplace drug or alcohol misuse.”

Palmers offers a range of advice and support for businesses regarding workplace policies and dealing with employment issues, including alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace. For more information contact us.