Workplace Alcohol Policy At Christmas

10th December 2019

Naturally during the festive period, staff are out socialising with colleagues, family and friends more often than usual. After all why not – it is Christmas! But sometimes the odd Christmas tipple can go a step too far… The associated risk between drinking and driving isn’t something we’re not familiar with, but we don’t often think about the effect a night out might have on us at work the next day.

Alcohol is estimated to cause 3-5% of all absences from work, resulting in a loss of between 8 to 14 million days in the UK every single year! Even if someone makes it into work, with a steaming hangover those productivity levels will be at an all-time low… But what about the legalities surrounding alcohol in the workplace? As an employer, what can you do to ensure your staff are not over the alcohol limit whilst at work? Find out more in this post.

When is it time to stop drinking?

Whether it’s a work’s Christmas party or a night out with friends, make employees aware of your workplace policy surrounding drinking, and when ‘enough is enough’. Let them know it’s not just to avoid the hangover the next day, but to ensure that they are sober enough to drive to work the next day, and carry out their job safely. If it is necessary within their job role to operate machinery or drive any kind of vehicle this is especially important in order to avoid litigation.

On average, it takes 1 hour for your body to break down 1 unit of alcohol, yet this does depend on other factors such as weight, age and food intake during the day. In December 2017, more than 5500 drivers were caught drink driving in the UK; many of these arrests carried out in the morning, where drivers assume they are sober. Encourage employees to work out from the units they have consumed when it might be safe to drive. If they know they have work in the morning, they should opt for lower strength drinks, alternate each alcoholic drink with a soft drink and stop drinking earlier on in the night to ensure the alcohol can be processed before the morning.

Work out your units…

How many units are in those few drinks? Probably a few more than you first thought…

  • A single shot of spirits (25ml) 1 unit
  • A standard glass of wine (175ml) 2.1 units
  • A large glass of wine (250ml) 3 units
  • A bottle of lager/beer/cider (330ml) 1.7 units
  • A can of lager/beer/cider (440ml) 2 units
  • A pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider 3 units

According to NHS guidelines.

What is your responsibility as an employer?

According to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a duty to look after the health, safety and welfare of employees (as far as is reasonably possible). For example, if you are aware one of your employees drank a little too much on the work night out, yet you allow them to continue working, you could be liable to litigation. This is especially key if you work in an industry with industrial machinery or driving and logistics. If this is the case, you may want to want to look at implementing a drug and alcohol policy that includes alcohol screening and testing, to protect both employees and employers.

If you already have a drug and alcohol policy in place, make your employees well aware of this policy (especially during the Christmas period). Let them know the consequences that may occur if they fail to act in accordance with the workplace policy.

You can get more Christmas alcohol advice here, however, if you would like to find out more about our drug and alcohol testing service, or further information on producing a drug and alcohol policy, get in touch with our team. We’re here to help!

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