Christmas Tipples Crisis in the Workplace

Christmas Tipples Crisis in the Workplace

26th December 2017

The festive season brings with it an increased level of socialising  with co-workers outside of the workplace as celebrations take place and this generally means an increase in the alcohol intake of many people.  Although most workers are aware of the risks associated with working under the influence of alcohol, many people forget to allow the additional time necessary for alcohol to pass through their system after an evening out with colleagues.  

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, all employers have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of emploees as far as is reasonably practical.  Any employer who knowingly allows a member of staff to cvontinue working under the influence can be prosecuted so making sure you have the resources necessary for employees to carry out their work safely is vital.  

In order to tackle the issue of Christmas and New Year drinking, many companies adopt compulsory alcohol screening and testing for employees, especially those who work in safety-sensitive industries, including jobs that require  work at height, the operation of industrial machinery, driving and logistics.  Apparently the statistics for “morning after” drink driving offences are shockingly high!  

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) prvides advice for employers on all elements of workplace legislation and have provided a collection of key issues for alcohol and drugs policies for companies to use, including the following advice:

  • Policies should be used to ensure that problems are dealt with rapidly, effectively and in a consistent manner.

  • Employers have legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Transport and Works Act 1992 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

  • Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, drugs are classified according to their perceived danger.

  • Managers should be trained in how to deal with workers who seek help for alcohol or drug problems.

According to ACAS, the policies used should protect employees and encourage those with problems to seek help.  An education programme for thjose who manage workers is a vital part of ensuring safety and should include:

  • Signs and symptoms to look out for in the workforce

  • HJow to deal with workers who seek help for alcohol or drug problems

  • Where to go to find expert help and advice.

ACAS provides information on how any alcohol or drug policy should be used to ensure that problems are dealt with early in the process in an efficient and consistent manner.  The ability to point workers in the right direction to get the help they need is a vital issue as it helps them to recognise the dangers of alcohol, drug and other substance misuse.  This will also help to persuade management and staff to recognise that covering up for somebody with an alcohol or drug problem is not in that person’s long-term interests and is definely not in the interests of the company itself, co-workers or customers.