Tel: 0345 644 8955 (TPS Registered)

Nigella Lawson: Sex and Drugs and Turkey Roll?

It comes as something of a disappointment that Britain’s favourite domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, has feet of clay. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I’m not so sure; her career may not be over but it will certainly suffer something of a set-back as a consequence.

Giving evidence during the trial of Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, Ms Lawson admitted that she had taken cocaine but was not an habitual user. The Grillo sisters had worked for Ms Lawson as personal assistants. They had been charged with defrauding Ms Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi. Scotland Yard had said it would not take action but would review the decision if new evidence emerged.

But on Saturday evening another statement was issued, perhaps in response to the media interest: "After the Metropolitan Police Service's decision not to investigate at this stage was queried in press reporting, we would like to clarify the position with regard to this witness. The senior investigating officer received legal advice that the witness's admissions did not by themselves provide sufficient evidence to bring charges. On that basis therefore, and in absence of any other corroboration, there is no imminent prospect of a prosecution being mounted. As we said, however, should any evidence come to light that can be investigated further we will review this decision. A specialist team from the MPS will nevertheless examine all the evidence emerging as part of a review into this matter and in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service will determine an appropriate way forward."

Social problems give rise to workplace problems for employers. How do you deal with suspected drug abuse by en employee without violating privacy rights or making false accusations? There are a number of actions the responsible employer can take.

Clues which may suggest drug use include:

  • mood changes. Warning signs include employees being irritable, withdrawn, depressed or particularly energetic or talkative after breaks or lunch.
  • altered appearance. Employees who previously were neatly turned out who start showing up dressed inappropriately or whose personal hygiene suffers. Other potential areas of concern: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and excessive weight loss or gain.
  • diminishing returns on performance. If performance starts to slide, you’d be concerned no matter what. But when taken in conjunction with things like loss of concentration, misuse of equipment and frequent use of sick days, that concern should start to ebb toward suspicion.
  • problems with relationships. Be on the lookout for employees who are argumentative, uncooperative or accusative.

Any of these matters, when taken alone, can be the result of any problem in an employee’s life. It’s when you start to notice a pattern of several of these that should lead you or your managers to question what’s going on.

Make sure you collect and document evidence. Note details so that you are able to refer to detailed examples when you meet to discuss the issues with an employee.

There comes a point where you need to get professional advice. Explore with a professional your concerns and possible courses of action. What’s available? What has the best record of success?

Approach the suspected user as a concerned colleague. Explain that you’ve noticed a problem and have consulted professionals to confirm your suspicions. Tackle the problem from the angle that, first and foremost, you want to help the person.

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme, it may be able to provide help. Whatever you do, lay out a plan for the person and your role in it – as a coach or just someone to talk to.

At that point, it’s up to the person to take action. You can only do so much by yourself. If the person doesn’t respond appropriately and performance or on-the-job behaviour becomes an issue, you can deal with that under policies and disciplinary rules.

The Health and Safety Executive says that employers have a “general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of your employees." It encourages employers to create a 'policy on drug misuse' as part of their organisation’s overall Health and Safety policy. It has a guide for employers in Drug Misuse at Work. Download it from their website (or ask us and we’ll send you a copy).

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

Subscribe to our free monthly HR newsletter. Russell HR Consulting employment law newsletters are emailed automatically to our ever-growing number of subscribers every month.

Got any HR queries?

Contact us