Employee caught drink driving

Having an employee tell you that they’ve been arrested for drink driving is the time to take a deep breath and remember the old saying ‘act in haste repent at leisure’.

The festivities are approaching; everyone’s out celebrating – but one of your employees tells you that they were charged with a drink driving offence. So, what do you do?

Your reaction will probably vary, depending on whether or not your employee’s job involves them driving on business. We’ll focus on those who drive for you as part of their job as these hold the biggest challenge for you, the employer.

Anyone convicted of a drink driving offence can be fairly certain that they will receive a driving ban as part of their penalty in addition to fines and even imprisonment in some cases. But, before you rush off in a panic, think: has your employee been convicted of an offence yet or are they just telling you that they have been charged and they are likely to be appearing in court to face charges?

Take care that you don’t overreact

If they haven’t yet been convicted of an offence you need to take care that you don’t over react, for example by dismissing the employee prematurely. If you were to do this and the employee was found not guilty, then more than likely you’ve created a whole new set of problems for yourself! You’ve potentially sacked them for something they’ve not done.

Our advice is this:

  • Talk to the employee to understand the circumstances and the severity of the charges
  • If they’re driving on company insurance, inform your insurers of the situation and act on any advice from them and establish whether they are willing to allow the employee to continue to drive on the policy.
  • If the employee is not to be allowed to drive, consider whether there are alternative duties that you can temporarily allocate to the employee, or are there other ways that you can provide transport for them to do their job. Is there a colleague who you could ask to drive them to essential appointments?
  • If you can’t provide alternative work and you aren’t able to allow them to continue to drive on business for you there may be no other alternative but to suspend the employee on full pay whilst you investigate the matter under the company disciplinary policy.
  • Convene a disciplinary hearing to consider the evidence available.
It’s an offence to drive without appropriate insurance cover

That’s the straightforward bit. The next bit is where it gets greyer and more difficult to take decisions. It is a potentially fair reason to dismiss someone on the grounds that if you continued to employ him or her to do a driving job and they had no driving licence it would be against the law. Remember, though, that at the moment, this person still has a driving licence.

If your insurers won’t allow the person to drive under the policy, you have a similar situation to above. It’s an offence to drive without appropriate insurance cover, so any dismissal would have to refer to this restriction.

Any subsequent challenge in a tribunal would require you, the employer, to have acted reasonably. Before imposing the ultimate sanction of dismissal you will be expected to have examined other alternatives, at least during the period whilst the employee is waiting for their court appearance for example considering other roles, other locations, other modes of undertaking their job and so on. This situation has all the hallmarks of act in haste repent at leisure for employers and must be approached with care.