It is often said that life is like a soap opera but occasionally it's the other way round as was the case with a recent episode of Coronation Street.
Background to the storyline
For those of you not familiar with the plot, Izzy works in the local garment factory. She is confined to a wheelchair and is in constant pain as a result of her condition. Over the counter pain relief medication does not help, only cannabis relieves the pain.
That she was taking cannabis came to the attention of her boss, Johnny who called her into his office to discuss. What should he do?
The options available to Johnny
Whilst not a common occurrence for most employers I am sure this is not a situation that is unique to Weatherfield. So how did Johnny deal with this and did this reflect good HR practice?
When he spoke with Izzy she freely admitted taking cannabis and explained the reason for her actions and suggested Johnny speak to her GP about her condition.
Johnny’s main concern was one of health and safety; “I can’t have somebody who works in the factory taking drugs” he said. In the end he asked her two questions. Had she ever come to work having taken drugs, or taken drugs at work? Secondly, did she have any drug related convictions? She answered “no” to both questions and Johnny said that was the end of the matter. His parting line to her was “we’re say no more about it then. I’ll see you in the morning”.
But was his decision the correct one, had he taken all reasonable steps to investigate Izzy’s conduct and was he right to take no further action?
Was his decision the correct one?
I believe Johnny made the correct decision not to dismiss Izzy. Whilst she admitted smoking cannabis she said that she had never attended work under its influence or smoked this at work. There was no evidence to the contrary. Izzy is a hardworking and loyal employee. To have dismissed her would have been unreasonable, and possibly judgemental. It was a pragmatic decision and I believe the right one to make.
A further factor to consider is whether Johnny’s investigation was thorough enough? In terms of mitigation for Izzy's actions, probably not. Izzy advised Johnny to speak to her GP which he didn't. Had he dismissed her and she brought a claim before a Tribunal, (unlikely I admit), Johnny would probably have been found not to have followed a fair procedure, because he didn't carry out a sufficient investigation and as such the dismissal would have been considered unfair.
What else should he do?
Johnny was right to be concerned about Health and Safety. As her employer Jonny has a duty of care to Izzy and her work colleagues. Does he have a disciplinary procedure that references drugs, or even a separate policy on drugs? In soap land probably not, in the real world “yes” he should have both.
Finally, a letter reminding Izzy to make sure that she never attended for work under the influence of cannabis would have been no bad thing.
So overall a potentially difficult situation pretty well managed by Johnny.
Tonight I’m looking forward to watching EastEnders where I can turn my attention to the HR implications of Phil Mitchell's drink problem.