It can be difficult for an employer to know how to react when an employee admits that they are suffering from an alcohol problem in the context of a disciplinary process. Glassford v Royal Mail Group Ltd is an example of a situation in which it was fair to dismiss, despite the employee's admission that his misconduct was alcohol related.
The employee had twice attended for work under the influence of alcohol, for which he received a sanction of "suspended dismissal", lasting for two years. While the sanction was still live, he had an unauthorised absence. Disciplinary proceedings followed and the employee was dismissed. At the appeal hearing, the employee admitted that he had been under the influence of alcohol on the day in question and that he had a problem with alcohol. The decision to dismiss was nonetheless upheld.
An employment tribunal found that the dismissal was fair, and the employee appealed on the basis that a reasonable employer would have investigated the admission that the employee had a drink problem before rejecting his appeal. The EAT dismissed that argument. It was apparent that the appeal manager had considered the employee's admission that he had a drink problem and had decided that dismissal was still appropriate. He had specifically concluded that the employee's admission was "too little, too late", not least because the employee had not sought help to address the problem, either from his GP or the employer's occupational health service. That cast doubt on the employee's willingness to tackle his problem, which was relevant to the overall reasonableness of the decision to dismiss. According to the EAT, the employer's decision "fell squarely within the band of reasonable responses".