The wrong type of festive spirit - Drinking at work

Peninsula Team

November 30 2015

Drinking during working hours isn’t ok, even at Christmas... As Christmas creeps ever closer employees start to relax, and that can include with the rules too – the temptation to indulge in some ‘festive spirit’ can really put workplace alcohol policies to the test. If you suspect an employee is using alcohol or drugs inappropriately, then you need to ensure that your policies are well produced and that you deal with any misconduct quickly and effectively. So what does a robust and fair drink and drugs policy look like? As an employer, you need to be non-judgemental and fair with all your staff dealings, so consider the following:
  • A statement to reassure that any drug or alcohol problem will be handled in the strictest of confidence
  • Ensure the policy is completely fair and non-discriminatory
  • Ensure that identical scenarios are handled consistently and have the same outcomes, unless you can demonstrate genuine reasons/factors for making an alternative decision (length of service, previous warnings etc.)
  • Some businesses manage these issues as a form of illness, so decide if you want to include rehabilitation and help to seek support in your policy – such as offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Dealing with drinking at work Having a watertight and clear policy in place is essential, and you need to use it if you have reasonable suspicions that someone is drinking (or worse) on the job. If you do suspect someone is in breach of your alcohol and drugs policy, this is what you should do:
  • Remove them from their workstation immediately, otherwise you’ll be liable for any health & safety issues that occur as a result of their actions
  • Support your suspicions by collecting as much evidence as possible and identifying the breach of policy before taking any action
  • Conduct an objective investigation, and invite the employee to a fact-finding investigation meeting
  • When you feel you’ve collected sufficient evidence to warrant a disciplinary procedure, you should invite the employee to a disciplinary meeting, where he/she should have the opportunity to put their case and any mitigating circumstances forward
  • Ask the employee to sign and date any minutes or notes taken during all meetings
  • Notify the employee of the outcome
  • After the disciplinary procedure, monitor the employee and offer encouragement if they’re showing improvement
As with any sensitive subject, you need to keep your cool and make sure you don’t jump to conclusions – remember that some forms of medication can give the impression that someone is under the influence of alcohol. While it’s imperative to take action to ensure the employee’s safety and that of their colleagues, a proper investigation has to be conducted in order to identify the reason behind their behaviour and conduct, rather than assuming the worst. For more information, please call our Advice Service on 0800 028 2420.

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