Legal highs – does your drugs policy need updating?

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 came into force on 26 May 2016, banning the production and supply of so-called ‘legal highs’ (substances sold openly in shops and online which imitate the psychoactive effects of illegal drugs, but are not actually illegal to sell or consume themselves). Their legal status means that individuals may not fully appreciate the effects of their use.

Legal highs are largely substances which imitate the psychoactive effects of illegal drugs when consumed, but are not actually illegal to consume themselves. As they are currently marketed as legal and sold openly in shops or online, many users may not fully realise the effects they might have. As with illegal drugs, they can have a range of effects on users and employers should consider their impact on their employees and workplaces.

Since 26 May, an employee supplying, offering to supply, or possessing with an intent to supply such a substance to a colleague will also be committing a criminal offence (although simple possession is not generally illegal). In addition, an employer who fails to take reasonable steps to prevent such illegal supply taking place on its premises may face a Premises Notice or Order which could, at worst case, close down their premises for up to six months.

Employers should review their substance misuse policies to see if they already refer to legal highs – it may be that their use is already banned – and ensure any relevant health and safety risk assessments cover the use of psychoactive substances and amend them if required. Finally, disciplinary polices should include the supply or attempted supply of legal highs, or being under the influences of such psychoactive substances, as further examples of gross misconduct.

European Council approves Trade Secrets Directive

The Trade Secrets Directive clarifies that nothing in the Directive should be understood to offer any grounds for restricting the mobility of employees. In particular, the Trade Secrets Directive cannot be used to:

  • limit employees’ use of information not constituting a trade secret;
  • limit employees’ use of the experience and skills they have honestly acquired in the normal course of their employment; and
  • impose any additional restrictions on employees in their employment contracts other than in accordance with Union or national law. Furthermore, liability for damage caused to employers for acts of unlawful acquisition, use or disclosure of their trade secrets by employees can be limited by Member States in circumstances where the latter have acted without intent. More details are available here.

Employee who took client details fined for data breach

A former employee of a waste management firm has been fined for taking commercially sensitive client details with him when he left his job to join a competitor.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the documents included personal information including contact details, purchase history and commercially sensitive information. He pleaded guilty at Telford Magistrates’ Court last month to unlawfully obtaining data under section 55 of the Data Protection Act, and was fined £300, a victim surcharge of £20 and £405.98 costs.

The case is a reminder that, in addition to any other legal recourse an employer may have, the taking of client records that include personal information to a new job without permission is a criminal offence.