Partygate puts the spotlight on alcohol abuse in the workplace

The long-running Partygate affair put a spotlight on the drinking culture in 10 Downing Street, but it also highlighted a problem faced by many businesses.

Is it okay to go out for a pint at lunchtime? Can alcohol be consumed on the premises? How do you deal with staff who turn up for work with a hangover?

In the past, a lot of business was done in the pub or restaurant, or on the golf course and then in the bar, with bosses often leading the way, oiling the wheels of industry.

But times have changed, and employers not only have a legal duty to protect staff, but arguably a moral duty to lead the way in curbing excesses.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees, who must also take reasonable care of themselves and anyone who could be affected by their work.

How can businesses deal with alcohol and drug abuse?

Firstly, have a policy that deals with this.  This will enable employees and managers to know what steps to take.

Managers and HR departments need to be able to spot the signs of drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace and develop a policy to deal with it.

Employees must also be consulted over health and safety matters.  Their input and the needs of the business can then be incorporated into a Alcohol and Substance Misuse Policy as well as the businesses Health and Safety Policy.

Any policy should put the onus on the employee, their colleagues, manager and HR professions to be aware of warning signs which could indicate drug or alcohol misuse, including:

What can employers do?

 Support for those employees with a problem: Once a policy has been adopted in the workplace, it’s important all staff are aware of it and what support can be offered through:

Drug and alcohol screening: Some employers have adopted screening as part of their drug and alcohol policy, particularly in certain jobs like drivers or machinery operators. This might be routine testing, testing where concerns have been identified or random testing.

This is a complex area, and you should seek advice from your legal professional before implementation.

What to do if you suspect an employee is misusing drugs or alcohol

Employees with a drug or alcohol problem may ask for help at work if they are sure their problems will be dealt with discreetly and confidentially.

However, if you are given information that suggests drug misuse has involved breaking the law at work, you might wish to consider any legal implication for you as a result of that.

Not every employer will have access to occupational health services or an HR department, but employers can provide information about where staff can go for advice and help if they’re concerned about drug or alcohol misuse.

For help and advice on drink and drug abuse in the workplace and matters relating to employment law, contact our expert team today.

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