Guernsey: Under The Influence In The Workplace - How Difficult To Handle?

Last Updated: 1 March 2013
Article by Emma Parr

"Not very" - according to Guernsey's Employment Tribunal in a recent decision; it is tantamount to gross misconduct and a fair reason to dismiss, providing an employer adopts a fair procedure (the Tribunal hastened to add).

On 26 July 2011, Mrs L, employed as a social worker in the Health and Social Services Department of the States of Guernsey, called a meeting with her Team Manager to confess to an alcohol problem. She admitted to drinking heavily and 'being under the influence' on various occasions whilst at work. Mrs L called the meeting to openly acknowledge her problem and to seek help and support from her employer in overcoming alcoholism.

Being a reasonable employer, the States were supportive and agreed to provide her with help which included making a referral to the in-house Occupational Health Team some two months later.

On 12 October 2011, Mrs L was due to attend a work-related training course at Guernsey's police station. Rather foolishly, Mrs L arrived at the course whilst under the influence of alcohol. Unsurprisingly, with the police already being 'on-hand', she was immediately arrested for drink-driving and charged. Upon learning of Mrs L's fate, the States chose to meet with her whilst in police custody during which she was suspended from duties with immediate effect.

The following day, Mrs L appeared before Guernsey's Magistrate Court and was convicted of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, fined and her driving licence suspended for over two years. On the same day, the States wrote to Mrs L confirming its decision to suspend her employment pending a thorough investigation (in accordance with the States' Disciplinary Procedures) and offered to provide her with additional guidance from a counselling service; she refused this offer.

As part of the investigation, two of the Department's managers were tasked with reviewing the circumstances surrounding the October 2011 incident, both being independent from the initial 'confession' meeting the previous July.

The investigators wrote to Mrs L inviting her to attend a meeting at a set date and time (three days hence); she was also informed of her right to be accompanied at this meeting by a workplace colleague, the purpose of which was to ascertain the reasons for her behaviour. Two further meetings were subsequently convened and on each occasion Mrs L was given the opportunity to speak openly.

Upon conclusion of the investigation, Mrs L was invited by letter to attend a disciplinary hearing (seven days hence) to discuss the investigators' findings. She was informed of her right to be accompanied by a workplace colleague and provided with a copy of the States' Disciplinary Procedures to review. She attended the meeting accompanied by a fellow social worker.

The investigation concluded that her attendance at a training course during her normal working hours (albeit not on work premises) was during the course of her employment with the States and that her behaviour fell nothing short of gross misconduct. On that basis, it was recommended that she be dismissed. The States agreed with the recommendations and summarily dismissed Mrs L by way of a termination letter five days later.

Mrs L was informed of her right to appeal the decision within five working days but she chose not to exercise this right. Instead, she issued a claim against the States alleging that she had been dismissed unfairly.

She argued that the States had failed to provide her with sufficient support following the initial disclosure of her alcohol dependency and, in particular, had delayed in her referral to Occupational Health. It was her opinion that if the States had provided the level of support necessary to help her overcome the alcohol problem at an earlier stage, then the incident on 12 October 2011 may have been avoided!

Not so, held the Tribunal.

Whilst it was unfortunate that the referral to Occupational Health took two months, the fact remains that in any employment relationship there is a joint responsibility of care; Mrs L had ample opportunity to personally pursue the States offer of support, or seek support of her own volition. Whether or not she would have committed the act of gross misconduct if she had received the promised States support is purely a matter of conjecture.

Applying the relevant sections of the law, the Tribunal referred to a number of factors including the impact of Mrs L's inability to drive (due to the loss of licence), reputational harm to the States and the possible likelihood of her having to appear (in a professional capacity) before the very Court that convicted her of drink-driving. These were genuine issues relating to her conduct and prevented her from performing her duties to a satisfactory standard; the States had a fair reason to terminate her employment.

On hearing that the reasons for her dismissal were 'fair', Mrs L then sought to argue that the States had failed to adopt a fair procedure in dismissing her, claiming that she had at no time been explicitly advised that her actions on 12 October 2011 may be categorised as gross misconduct; for that reason the States had failed to inform her that the ultimate disciplinary sanction was dismissal.

The Tribunal was not prepared to entertain this argument; it ruled that Mrs L, whilst somewhat foolish, was in fact an intelligent, professional person and would have reasonably understood the seriousness of her actions and the potential consequences for her role. The Tribunal accepted that although the States failed to maintain a detailed set of file notes, this procedural failing was minor in nature and did not detract from the overall fairness of the investigatory and disciplinary procedure adopted.

This decision is relevant for any employer. It emphasises the importance of having a clear disciplinary policy; this ensures a fair procedure is adopted when tackling, amongst other things, conduct issues and is something that a Tribunal will hold in high regard when hearing dismissal claims. A Tribunal does not look favourably upon those employers that have no such policy. Therefore, if you need help drafting a disciplinary policy, or would like to discuss any employment related issues, please give our employment team a call.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.