Employers’ Responses to Alcohol Addiction in South Africa: The Role of the Legislative Framework

Author Betina Fleming

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Attorney; LLB, LLM, University of the Witwatersrand
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 43 Issue 1, 2022, p. 17 – 39


Alcohol addiction in South Africa is a growing concern affecting many individuals, both professionally and personally. The impact of substance abuse on the workplace is immense and as such there is a need for employers to understand their roles, rights, and obligations in dealing with employees suffering from alcohol addiction. This article considers the definition of substance abuse, how it manifests itself in the workplace, and how employers can establish whether an employee is alcohol dependent. The article addresses the differences between misconduct in respect of social drinkers and incapacity in respect of employees suffering from alcohol addiction. It discusses the views of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and provides an overview of the South African legislative framework under the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act. The article goes on to identify the gaps between the ILO’s recommendations and South African law and suggests mechanisms to close these gaps. If South Africa is to take steps to guard against alcohol abuse and protect the rights of employees, the introduction of a framework to assist employers in managing alcohol addiction is paramount. Ensuring synergy between the ILO recommendations and South African legislation is the first step.