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What makes a good Alcohol and Drugs Policy

What makes a good Alcohol and Drugs Policy?

If you search the internet there are a number of policies that have been written by so-called experts that you can download for free. The concern with these policies is that they are not fit for purpose and if challenged could end up being a very expensive free purchase! The adage, “if it sounds too good to be true…”, could not be more applicable to these free policies.

Title of the policy

Let’s start with the title. Most policies we see at Hampton Knight are titled “Substance Misuse” but this does not reflect the content of the policy which covers more than misuse, it also includes possession, consumption, impairment, and most importantly dependency. It is therefore recommended that the title is “Alcohol and Drugs Policy” which is preferred to using the title, “Drugs and Alcohol Policy” as this could be shortened to D&A which could be confused with DNA.


Next, the policy should be consistent throughout, for example, a number of these free policies use the terms misuse and abuse as the same issue, when they are two separate issues. The term abuse is also not recommended for a workplace policy.

Clarity is also important, especially when it could result in disciplinary action, for example, “employees must not consume or possess drugs on company sites” is not recommended, the definition of drugs include medication and caffeine making this rule unworkable.


To ensure all employees understand the main terms of the policy, a definition section is recommended. The definitions must be clear and accurate and not open to interpretation.

For example, the definition of dependency should not include the terms misuse, abuse or problem as these do not accurately describe dependency. Another key definition is the term impairment for the outcomes for alcohol and drugs to ensure these terms are legally defensible.

Key Sections

To aid the flow of the policy, it should include as a minimum the following sections:

The Purpose or Aim;

  • Definitions
  • The Scope
  • Rules
  • Responsibilities
  • Testing
  • Counselling

We see policies, where the wording used, is in the wrong section, for example, having “the company will take disciplinary action if there is a breach of the policy” in the scope section is not relevant to this section. It would be better placed in the rules section.

Testing procedures

Finally, having testing procedures within the main body of the policy or as an attached appendix should be avoided. The policy sets out the standards and requirements and the testing procedure is the process to use. If the testing procedure is not followed correctly and is part of the policy, this could be challenged by an employee.


For a policy to be legally defensible, it should be clear and concise, being robust enough to stand up to scrutiny, but reasonable in its requirement.

Further Information

If you would like more information regarding a legally defensible policy, please contact Hampton Knight on 01827 65999.

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