HR 15 February 2017

When should a small business introduce a drugs and alcohol policy?

When should it be acceptable for employees to consume alcohol?
The news that Lloyds of London, the insurance market, has introduced a policy banning consumption of alcohol during core working hours has divided opinion on employment practices, writes Peninsula employment law director, Alan Price.

Some commentators are shocked that this rule needs to be explicitly laid down, whilst others are wondering at the extent of employers control over staffs? private time.

Factors such as workloads and workplace pressure increases may be contributing towards lunch time drinking becoming a social norm. How can employers therefore tackle drinking during working hours?

It is important employees are made aware that lunch breaks can be viewed as an extension of the working day and not the employee’s own time. This will depend on factors such as whether the employee leaves the office, if they take lunch at their desk and what effect the alcohol will have on the employee’s work after their break.

Health and safety is a major issue, especially where the drinking member of staff will go on to undertake duties such as operating heavy machinery.

In similar fashion to Lloyds of London, smaller employers who wish to prevent this happening should introduce a drugs and alcohol policy.

The drugs and alcohol policy should cover all areas of the working day including those which may be viewed as non-work time, for example lunch breaks, client visits, working lunches etc. It should contain exactly what is and isnt acceptable from employees in relation to consuming alcohol and the potential consequences if the policy is breached.

Employers should get signed and dated evidence that the drugs and alcohol policy has been received, read and understood by all members of staff. This will be important when relying on the details set out in the policy in the future.

Simply having a policy will not prevent the consumption of alcohol, so employers need to enforce it properly. This will be crucial in businesses similar to Lloyds of London where lunchtime drinking has become ingrained in the culture of the company.


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