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Help Needed - Practitioner Repeatedly Smells Of Alcohol!


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I hope you can help me.. I have a situation with a member of my staff coming to work red eyed and smells of alcohol, this is happening at least a couple of times a week. she isnt slurring her words, staggering or noticably drunk, but when she talks to the aprents i'm sure they will be able to smell it..


I ave spoken to her in a one to one situation and each time I notice the smell i mention that she needs a mint! and she understands what i am getting at, I have started to document these instances.


now this last week we have had to have a disciplinary meeting with her, about confidentiality issues and she as blatantly lied to me and made up a story to get another member of staff in trouble and herself out of trouble, it as back fired on her as the 2nd member of staff as now confronted her saying that she is not prepared to lie for her.


The whole thing has just got so daft I feel like I am going around in circles


So now I have two issues with her, I'm not sure which angle to take she as alleged to the other staff that "I am bullying her"


she has worked for the setting for 12 years, i'm not sure what we can do..


Any adice would be good, Ideally I would like to dismiss her, but with the working for us for so long she has lots of rights! is the drink enough to dismiss or not?



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It is difficult to make a judgement from a distance. However there are disciplinary procedures you should follow, which if not set out in your policy, will be downloadable from the ACAS website. You could also ring them directly for advice.


Good luck

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Send her home, tell her she is not fit to be around the children if she is under the influence of alcohol. TELL her you can smell it, don't hint at it. Your children deserve better than this. Of course she is going to say you are bullying her; she is getting in with an attack first, because she knows that it is inevitable that you will have to deal with this issue. If she drives to work, you could, of course phone the police and report that she is on her way home and has been drinking. You can do it anonymously, but they won't tell her it was you. Document EVERYTHING, every time she smells of booze; how she behaves to children, staff and parents, if you are a member of PSLA, try their Lawcall line for advice, but also ACAS and OFSTED. This isn't nice, but far better to have to deal with her, than an accident that has happened to one of the children due to her drinking And for goodness sake, WHY should you have to pussy foot around her??

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What a difficult situation for you. This sort of thing is always difficult to deal with.

I like in these situations to start by trying to show the person that I am trying to listen to them, so if there is something within my control I can then try to get it sorted. Perhaps starting by saying something like 'you have been here for a long time, but you don't seem very happy at the moment'. Often I have needed to sit through a number of groans and grumbles about work which, to me, seemed very petty. I would try not to respond to this much at the time but simply say I am making a note and see if it is possible for us to do something. After this I have been able to ask about home situation / other pressures on them. So often they land up by talking about something totally outside work that they are struggling with. If nothing else, they can't say I have not tried to listen to them. At best just getting them to talk has helped to put the issue into perspective. I imagine you used the 1:1 to offer her this opportunity. If you did not record the meeting I suggest you should make notes now, in case you need to refer to it later.

You need to follow your setting's disciplinary policy but I would then look at what the contract says? Most have phrases like 'must not bring the setting into disrepute' / 'be in a fit condition to work' etc. You need to relate any disciplinary warning to one of these statements and to be very specific.

Do you have a committee member / trustee / other senior member of staff who can support you?

As has already been said, I would not do anything re disciplinary without talking to ACAS, but I would not accept a staff member coming in smelling of alcohol - too many of our parents have problems in that direction and staff need to be a good role model.

Good luck. keep us posted.

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The Statutory Famework for EYFS (May 2008) page 31 Specific legal requirements "Alcohol/other substances: when working directly with children, prctitioners must not be under the influence of alcohol or any other substance which may affect their ability to care for children"


It may be worth a call to Ofsted to record your concerns and document the actions you have taken - looks like you have a legal duty to act.


Good Luck!



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I would certainly get some advice from ACAS or Lawcall. I would imagine that you must have something in your particulars of employment or discipline policy about coming to work under the influence of drugs, and how to deal with this. I think sometimes we forget that alcohol is a drug like any other, because it is something a lot of us use and take for granted. She may well, as said above, have other issues in her life which she needs to deal with and she may need to be given an opportunity to open up about them. The alcohol won't be helping her mood as it is a depressant. Best of luck.

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Hi Silver Genius,


I can only echo what everyone else has said really, ACAS, Lawcall and Ofsted if you need to take it further. Maybe seen as you have been hinting and given opportunities for this member of staff to talk maybe a slightly more direct approach. Can you in a 1:1 situation say that you can smell alcohol on her and ask her if there is anything she wants to talk about, or that you can help with. If you offer support and help or say that you are prepared to support her getting some help, maybe AA or counselling if that is what is necessary then it might show her that you are not actually against her just acknowledging the problem and expressing that you can't have this kind of behaviour in your setting, which you cant. We had a different kind of situation in that a volunteer smelt really strongly of smoke, we did talk to her and then updated our policies to include smoking, alcohol etc...


any help??

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Thanks everyone for the replies,


I have sat down and a good chat with her, there are a lot of personal issues going on which i cant help her with! she has said she will try to cut down especially on a work night. only time will tell.


I have updated and altered our policy to allow us to take some action, and gave it out at a recent staff meeting to everyone.


will let you know of any further developments i just hope that the 1:1 meeting has made her think


thanks again.

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