December 12, 2013

Ask the Expert – Drunk in Charge?

As we are approaching the festive period, we are becoming increasingly concerned about our employees coming to work under the influence of alcohol and as a result they would not be in a fit state to do their job. What can we do about this? We want everyone to enjoy themselves over the festive period but due to the nature of our business we cannot tolerate employees coming to work under the influence of alcohol.

Do you have an alcohol policy in place? If not, then it may wise to introduce a policy on alcohol misuse. This means you can set the standard required by your employees, specify your expectations and help to ensure that employees who attend work under the influence of alcohol are treated consistently. The policy should explain what kind of behaviour is, and is not, tolerated and an explanation of what action you will take if an employee is under the influence of alcohol at work.

The level of risk associated with employees being under the influence of alcohol at work varies across employers and the nature of the work being performed. For example, employees involved in the operation of machinery or driving vehicles will pose more risk and danger than those working in an office environment. However, all employers should be concerned about the potential effects of alcohol at work. Alcohol consumption can interfere with work performance, attendance and productivity. It can even impair an employee’s judgement and ability to make decisions. It can also be the cause of an increase in the potential for problems between staff due to aggressive, violent or harassing behaviour.

If you do have an alcohol policy it may be worthwhile reminding employees about their obligations in relation to alcohol use and that you expect employees to drink sensibly during the festive period this year. You should remind them that disciplinary action will be taken if an employee is found to be under the influence of alcohol at work. You can do this by issuing a memo or email to all employees summarising the alcohol policy and actions that may be taken if breached. You should encourage employees to read the policy.

Even if you don’t have a policy in place you could make a general announcement to all employees via email or by a memo advising them that whilst everyone wants to enjoy the festive period they are expected to demonstrate responsible behaviour at work, work-related functions and social events. All employees are expected to consume alcohol over the festive period responsibly and not in a way that would impair their work performance, ability to work or lead to behaviour that may damage the reputation of the company. Advise employees that if they are found to be under the influence of alcohol and/or their ability to work is impaired this could result in disciplinary action.

If an employee does attend for work and you consider them to be under the influence of alcohol, you should send them home pending an investigation. You should then conduct that investigation and determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate in the circumstances. If so, you should follow your disciplinary procedure. All employees found to be under the influence of alcohol should be treated fairly and consistently.

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