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Coming to work free from substance abuse

We always come to work in a fit state to do our job

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What it's all about

In the workplace, substance abuse does serious damage to relationships and team performance. Health and safety can be compromised, and it can be the cause of serious accidents. 

So we all have the right to expect we can do our jobs in a workplace that’s free of drug and alcohol misuse. 

It can feel hard and even ‘wrong’ to report a colleague we know is having difficulties with addiction or whose drug or alcohol use is affecting their performance at work. But if we know it’s happening, it’s our duty to report it for the good of everyone. 

And we’re actually helping that person - because if one of us gets into difficulties with substance abuse, Serco will do what it can to help us and support our recovery. But of course we’ll have to play our part too. 

That means having the courage to accept that we have a problem, and then choosing to act by seeking professional help and agreeing at work to medical check-ups, including unannounced testing. 

“I’d felt bad for reporting him. But in the end he came up to me and said it was the turning point that made him confront his addiction.”

What we all need to know and do

  • We come to work free from alcohol, drugs, or other substances which could affect our performance. 

  • We never use, possess, sell, or distribute illegal drugs or substances or abuse alcohol, at work.

  • We seek professional help as soon as possible if we have a drug or alcohol problem and follow all the requirements and guidance for our recovery. If we don’t, and our substance misuse is a risk to ourselves or others, disciplinary action can follow.

  • We inform our manager if a doctor has prescribed drugs or medication that may impair our performance. We will not be penalised for this, but Serco needs to make sure that we and our colleagues are safe.

  • We recognise that poor performance, misconduct, or excessive absence can result in disciplinary measures. Sometimes this can happen alongside the support we receive for our recovery.  

  • If we take time off because of substance misuse, we may have to undergo a fitness assessment before returning to work. We may also be required to agree to follow-up counselling, regular medical check-ups, and unannounced testing.

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mycode says, “If we know it’s happening, it’s our duty to report it for the good of everyone. So, that’s what I did and I’m so glad! We’ve been on quite a rollercoaster, so I thought I’d share a letter I wrote to a friend and colleague to keep her going and show what she means to me and how much I want to support her.

‘Darling Jitka, 

I want to start by saying how much you mean to me. I’ve cherished our friendship, the fun we’ve had over the years and the way you embrace life. When I saw that go too far, I just wanted my friend back and here you are. Still joyful, still full of love and now on a much more positive path. I’m so proud of you and how far you’ve come.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do to tell our boss about you and your drinking, but I had to do the right thing. I had to speak up and I felt it was the only way to get you to see how far it had gone unchecked. It hasn’t been easy for either of us, but with the support from Serco, you acknowledged you had a problem, and it was magnificent to see you take control. 

Serco were fantastic, so supportive and I know that has helped you get here today. Taking time off work to get the treatment you need and going through your programme was hard, of course. And now you have gone through all the hoops to return to work, here we are. I know you will have follow-up counselling and I will be with you all the way. You’ll need medical check-ups and understandably Serco will do unannounced tests, to ensure you’re safe to work and work is safe, but it’s so worth it.

So welcome back! It’s a new beginning for us both. A new relationship with life, work and friends. “Seize the day”, they say… Well, we’re here - so bring it on!’

If we’re worried about someone, or we know they’re struggling – maybe with
addiction or mental health - we Speak Up. 


Serco Marine Services SD Victoria: Ship log entry 13th April 

This evening, through anonymous information, I was made aware of an individual on board that has been consuming alcohol beyond reasonable limits. This led to threatening behaviour. My action will be to talk to the individual mentioned and then follow up with their manager and HR.

Serco Marine Services SD Victoria: Ship log entry 14th April

Due process has been followed. I spoke to the individual involved. He was clearly under the influence of alcohol and has made me aware of the scale of his problem. My duty of care is to the other crew members, their safety, the safety of the vessel and its task. I have therefore confined him to his cabin. Our onboard Doctor has been giving him counselling on the situation, what support is available to him and resources should he want to engage. I have also contacted HR and communicated the situation to other managers on the ship.

Serco Marine Services SD Victoria: Ship log entry 19th April

Despite initial engagement with our best efforts, the individual has relapsed and is heavily under the influence of alcohol. In the short time he was out of his cabin, he injured a fellow crew member in a brawl and has been restrained.  

Serco Marine Services SD Victoria: Ship log entry 20th April

Unfortunately, we have had to dismiss the individual involved. He does not want to engage in support and with the warnings that have been put in place we can no longer tolerate that attitude and their behaviour. A big decision, because we would want to support anyone willing to help themselves, but even with a range of recovery options discussed with them, he is not ready and willing to take them up. A sad day.

Serco will do what it can to help us and support our recovery. 
But of course we’ll have to play our part too.

Mondays, you never really know what the week is going to bring. Juan had worked there for 10 years. As head of HR he had actually seen most of the people in the office grow in their careers and had even been to some weddings. There were tough days too, but that’s part of the job. 

Sofia was worried. Ezra hadn’t arrived yet. They were good friends, so she knew he was going through a rough time, and had seen how much he was drinking. Once he started, he just didn’t seem to be able to stop. It had been like that for months now. 

Izzy sat at her desk. As the line manager, she liked to be there early and get ahead for the week. Her team were achieving targets and she needed to gently keep the pressure on to keep them there. So it was motivational Monday and she had a meeting at 10am to focus them on the week.  

At 10:20 Ezra entered. He was dressed for work but jittery, not completely in control and as he got closer to the table, was clearly covering up an aroma with a lot of aftershave.  

Sofia was mortified for him. Clearly Ezra had carried on drinking after they had finished on Friday and continued through the weekend. She wanted to get up to help, but Izzy beat her to it. ‘Ezra, I need you to come with me. Sofia, can you continue the meeting then join me in my office? Sofia nodded, took a breath and carried on.

Back in her office Izzy sat him down. ‘Ezra, you are clearly under the influence of something, and I need to bring in Juan to work through how we move on from here.’ 

The first thing Juan and Izzy had to do was to try to establish the extent of his condition. Clearly he wasn’t capable of working so they would have to send him home. 

‘Ezra,’ said Juan, ‘we can’t tolerate this behaviour. You aren’t fit to carry out your duties here today and we need to send you home. Do you understand?’ Ezra nodded, looking down at his shoes and realising that this was serious. ‘Yes’, he said quietly. ‘I’m so sorry, I think I need help’.  

Juan continued, dropping his voice. ‘Ezra, we’re on your side and we want to help you. Take some time, talk to your doctor, try and get on a programme. And if you can provide evidence that you’re addressing this, we can talk about a stepped process for returning to work. We’ll be in touch about next steps. Meantime, Sofia is a good friend and she’s said she’ll take you home. You can do this, Ezra – but it’s in your hands.’

We seek professional help as soon as possible if we have a drug or alcohol problem and follow all the requirements and guidance for our recovery. 

If we don’t, and our substance misuse is a risk to ourselves or others,
disciplinary action can follow.

The DJ: This is RST radio, and I’m your host Lian, here to hear your stories and play your sounds, through the night. First up tonight is an anonymous caller, to talk about a friend in need.  Anon, what’s your story?

Anon: Hi Lian. I’ve not called before, but I don’t know what to do and I can’t sleep, so I thought I’d call.

The DJ: It’s okay Anon, take your time … What’s going on?

Anon: I work on a refuse truck with some colleagues, well they’re friends really, we’ve been on the rounds together for so long. Anyway, one of them, is it okay if I don’t say his name … well, he’s been showing up to work and he’s been out of it. He’s been doing drugs, and well, he’s the driver, so I’m really worried something bad will happen and someone will get hurt. Someone nearly did today, but we got away with it.

It’s getting worse - he’s turning up in a state, like he just doesn’t care and he knows no one’s going to do anything. 

The DJ: I can hear how worried you are. Let me ask you a question ... Has anyone from your work ever talked about what you should do in these circumstances? Is there someone there who you could talk to, that would deal with this? It strikes me that you need to speak up or something horrible could happen. What do you think?

Anon: It’s just … he’s a friend, and I really don’t want him to get into trouble, you know?    

Lian: Of course, and I’m sure you’re a great friend, but the best thing you can do is speak up and trust the company you both work for has the right way of dealing with this. Most good companies do now. Who could you talk to?

Anon: Well, my manager gets in before we go out on the round - so I guess I could speak to him then. 

Lian: Then go see him, speak from the heart and trust that the right things will happen. You can’t let this one go. You’ve got to do this! 

Anon: Yeah. Yeah, okay you’re right - I’ve got to. Thanks Lian.

Lian: Thanks for calling Anon. And to all our listeners out there, you may have friends going through hard times, and you know they can be stuck in denial. So sometimes the best thing you can do for people is speak up - put a name to the problem. It could be the first step to getting them the help they need. 

So here’s Joe Cocker with ‘I’ll get by with a little help from my friends’.

We take care of each other. If we’re worried about someone, or we know they’re struggling – maybe with addiction or mental health - we Speak Up.

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