An employee having alcohol in a workplace
Blog • 22.05.15

Alcohol abuse in the workplace – a quick guide for small employers

Laura R
HR Consultant Team Manager

Get expert HR guidance

With recent news showing that 23.53% of British workers are driving to working over the limit, employers might question what impact this could have on them? Alcohol abuse in the workplace can have a significant impact on you, your other employees, and you small business.

But what can you do to manage alcohol abuse in the workplace or what should you do if you suspect an employee is struggling with a drinking problem at work?

Alcohol abuse and your business

First off, there’s the direct impact of alcohol misuse on productivity. It has been calculated that alcohol accounts for about £7.3bn in lost productivity , and has been estimated to cause the loss of 17 million working days each year. Obviously absence and poor productivity would be something that small employers want to avoid.

During the day to day running of a business, this means work issues like tiredness, an increased incidence of mistakes, poor behaviour and discipline, and potentially damaging effects on the company image or customer relations. All things that an employer would hope to avoid.

And this doesn’t just affect the business through their work, alcohol also impacts on other employees who have to ‘carry’ the staff member who is still drunk or hungover – meaning resentment and potential staff issues or disagreements further down the line too.

Don’t think that the worst thing you have to face when an employee has an alcohol problem is decreased productivity though. Health and Safety law states that if you knowingly allow an employee under the influence to continue working, and as a result put other people (employees, customers, general public) at risk, you could be prosecuted.

So if your staff work with any heavy machinery, or drive as part of their role, you should certainly take care to manage employees who may have had too much to drink.

How to avoid problems with alcohol at work

What can a small employer do to avoid alcohol problems at work?

The first place to start is with an alcohol policy. This is usually a standard part of employment documentation, so you might find that you already have it covered.

  • If you don’t though, here are some hints to help you manage alcohol problems at work:
  • Communicate your expectations clearly, team meetings, company notice board, don’t write the policy then leave it collecting dust on a shelf.
  • Ensure that problems are dealt with promptly, and consistently, don’t allow certain levels of drunken behaviour slip and others not
  • Brief your managers on signs to look out for, or brush up yourself
  • Implement an alcohol testing procedure if you’re in a particular high-risk industry
  • Find out how you can help people seek advice if they feel they have a problem

That final point is perhaps the most important. Alcohol can become a serious health issue, that you have a duty of care to help employees with. Directing employees in need of help, to the expert assistance that can be provided is a first step towards them understanding the dangers of alcohol and its misuse, and where they can get more help if they need it.

But don’t be too soft in the process, alcohol abuse is not just a danger to your businesses productivity, but it could end up with you being prosecuted. Managing your staff’s behaviour is always important, but when it comes to putting their, and other people’s, lives at risk you need to take action to protect you and your business first and foremost.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

Get HR Support

If you suspect that one of your employees has a problem with alcohol and don’t know how to proceed, or would like to create a policy around alcohol abuse in the workplace, our HR consultants can help.

Contact us today

Contact us today

Two happy employees smiling in a manufacturing plant