Labour Research May 2004

Features: Law queries

Alcohol dependency

A colleague and union member has had an alcohol problem for some years. Although initially he seemed able to keep things under control, he has started to have time off for depression. As a result he has hit the sickness absence procedure and our employer is threatening to discipline him.

The union believes that this member has a disability and that the employer should make adjustments to enable him to continue working. The employer says that disability laws are not relevant since those with alcohol (and drug) dependencies are excluded. Is there any way round this?

It is true that alcohol and drug dependency is specifically excluded from the defintion of disability. However, if as a result of dependency a worker suffers a mental or physical impairment, such as depression, he should be treated as a disabled worker.

* More information: LRD booklet, Discrimination at work