Ask The HR Expert: Employees drinking during lunch

Peninsula Team

May 18 2012

I have an employee who has worked with me for a number of years however we have noticed that he is often taking longer at lunch and on some days returning to work slightly intoxicated which is naturally having an impact on the job and staff morale. Is there anything I can do to help? David Price answers: This can be a delicate issue for employers, but if you have good reason to believe an employee is drinking excessively it is important to act immediately. It could well be a potential safety issue and does nothing to promote an engaging work environment. In the first instance it is advisable to sit down with the employee and hold an informal welfare meeting. Approach the meeting from a duty of care (legal as well as moral) standpoint and express your concerns that the employees’ lunchtime drinking is impacting on their ability to carry out their contractual duties and is affecting staff morale. It is important to establish if the employee has any underlying, personal or work related problems/issues, which could explain this. If it comes to light that the employee is drinking to cope with a difficult situation, either at work or at home, then you should offer your support and ask if there is anything you can do to help them combat any strains on their life. If the problem is work related then you may need to refer them to your formal grievance procedures. It may also be beneficial to consider offering them help through the framework of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAPs are one of the most common interventions used in workplaces’ to address alcohol related problems. A typical EAP provides peace of mind for employees, through the provision of a free and empathic personal support and counselling helpline. The average working week is 40 hours long, so many of your employees may find they spend more time at work than at home which can lead to strains on their lives. It therefore makes sense for employers to offer their staff support, and help look after their physical and mental wellbeing. Furthermore, if the employees know they have the support of their employer in difficult times it could improve employee loyalty and performance. EAPs are also proven to combat stress and reduce absence and in the long run could help drive efficiency and lower your costs. For any further information, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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