Sleeping At Work

Sleeping while on duty can have catastrophic consequences, depending on the line of work the employee has. A traffic controller taking a nap during their shift can lead to an aviation disaster. No less serious is when the employee keeps falling asleep in the break room or even at their desk.

As long as they are on company time, an employee is expected to be active and alert. They can’t be very productive when they’re snoozing. And in all instances, the employer should take action.

When to discipline a sleeping employee

There are many factors to consider before deciding to discipline a worker caught nodding. These factors are:

  • Is sleeping on the job an isolated incidence or regular occurrence.
  • The seriousness and repercussions of the employee sleeping on the job.
  • Is it a medical condition? Or is the employee sleeping because they were up partying all night?
  • Are employees getting adequate rest breaks according to the Working Time Regulations 1998?

An employee who comes to work hungover and keeps dozing off at their desk is not the same as one who is insomniac or has a sleep disorder. Stress can lead to sleep deprivation. The employer needs to take into account all these factors before they send the worker to HR for a disciplinary investigation that could lead to their dismissal.

How to prevent sleeping at work

Not all cases of employees sleeping at work lead to termination. If the employer has a severe problem with employees sleeping on the job, they can deal with it in many ways. Here are some ways to prevent sleeping at work from becoming a larger issue that affects morale and productivity:


Verbal warnings

A first step to handle a case of sleeping at work is to discuss the matter with the employee in private. The employer needs to understand the reasons for this misconduct. Also, considering the employee’s past performance and productivity, the employer should give them a verbal warning and point to the consequences of repeating such behaviour.

Offer help

Sometimes the employee might have a sleep disorder, or they have issues at work or in their private life creating excess stress. The employer should approach this delicately and listen to the employee before offering ways to help them.
Help and assistance depend on what causes the issue. If it’s a medical condition, the employer can send them for medical care. But sometimes a stressed worker just needs a few days off to rest and recuperate or perhaps an adjusted schedule. Also, the employer should consider if short breaks throughout the day would help a worker suffering from sleep deprivation.


Sleeping at work is gross misconduct that can lead to disciplinary action and in some cases termination of employment. The employer should consider the employee’s history and past productivity before they decide to discipline or help them.

Should you have any questions feel free to reach out to our help line. DLP advisors are available to answer any questions you may have at 0330 400 4495.