Alcohol at Work Policies

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Why is alcohol misuse a business issue?

Alcohol misuse is everyone’s concern. The costs associated with alcohol at work, the impact of current legislation, and the notable links between alcohol and ill health suggest that alcohol policies are becoming an essential part of good business practice. Small and large businesses alike are advised by major bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Federation of Small Businesses to adopt alcohol policies.

Why have an alcohol policy?

It is estimated that alcohol misuse costs industry several billion pounds each year. Surveys suggest that their main concerns regarding the after-effects of employee drinking are:

  • loss of productivity and poor staff performance – 75% of problem drinkers are in full-time employment
  • lateness and absenteeism – alcohol is estimated to cause 3 – 5% of all absences from work which equates to 8 – 14 million lost working days in the UK each year
  • safety concerns – alcohol is known to affect judgement and physical co-ordination – 25% of accidents at work are reported as being alcohol related
  • effect on team morale and employee relations
  • bad behaviour or poor discipline
  • adverse effects on company image and customer relations

What does the law say?

All employers have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. There are elements of the following legislation that affects alcohol misuse:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – sections 2, 3 and 4 concern the responsibility of the employer, section 7 the responsibility of the employee.
  • The Transport and Works Act 1992 – specific legislation in place to control the misuse of both alcohol and drugs in the transport industry

Good alcohol practice

While for many people, drinking alcohol is a positive part of life and does not cause any problems, the misuse of alcohol can lead to reduced productivity, taking time off work, and accidents at work. That’s why employers should seriously consider adopting an alcohol policy, in consultation with their staff , that is applicable to all employees regardless of status. In cases where restrictions are placed on employees in ‘safety-sensitive’ occupations, policy rules should be clearly explained and defined.

A guide to areas to include in a policy are:

  • how the organisation expects employees to limit their drinking
  • how problem drinking will be recognised and help offered
  • at what point and in what circumstances you will treat an employee’s drinking as a matter for discipline rather than as a health problem

More information on alcohol misuse