December is typically a month of excess. Including for some, alcohol consumption; prompting resolution for at least a Dry January. How far do employers also have a responsibility to encourage “sensible drinking” within their workforce?
There are many good reasons to do so. Under H&S legislation you could be prosecuted where an employee who is under the influence continues working and this puts them or others at risk. It’s a criminal offence for certain transport workers (and others using plant) to be unfit through drink and/or drugs while working and their employers may be prosecuted also. Beyond statutory requirements, there are potential risks to; reputation, productivity, team cohesion, (that errant e-mail…), and general poor judgment. Drinking outside work may create short term problems, a hangover or a bad night's sleep. Or have a longer term impact on physical or mental health, leading to sickness absence or long term competence problems.
Turning a blind eye to occasions of excess or providing alcohol at work events may also be out of step with the expectations of your workforce. An ONS report published in 2015 noted that more than one in five adults in Great Britain said they were teetotal, (2013). Almost a third of adults in London (32%) said that they do not drink alcohol at all. Useful informal networks that make use of alcohol related events, e.g. the drinks after work culture, may be excluding a fair chunk of your workforce.
So how to be proactive without being accused of “humbug”? Introducing an alcohol policy as part of a broad and varied employee health promotion programme makes sense. Concentrate on the positives, better health, more diversity
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