So we all love a little tipple now and then (we won’t mention the Sapience Christmas party!), but what if alcohol starts to be a major problem in the workplace? Two weeks into Dry January (31 days has never felt so long) it’s worth looking at alcohol in the workplace, what are the rules and what you can do if you notice it start to be a problem.

Alcohol is the most popular vice in the UK. Used to celebrate, commiserate, relax, calm the nerves and best of all, make the most of a good time. However, having an employee who is under the influence of alcohol in the workplace is no laughing matter.

Alcohol might make an appearance in the workplace from time to time, maybe a work social or sometimes a client meal. However, a line has been crossed when alcohol is being swigged from a personal supply throughout the day, or when its presence is still lingering – what we call ‘the morning after the night before’.

The main cause for concern here is safety. Does your employee’s role involve operating machinery, driving or climbing a ladder?  Does their commute into the workplace involve driving?  The risk here is not only to the employee’s safety, but to the safety of others around them.

There’s also reputation to consider. By being under the influence at work their behaviour may not only be destroying their own personal reputation- but could also be dragging down the reputation of your business with them, though interactions with customers and suppliers.

It is essential that every business has a clear alcohol and drug policy, it might seem boring but it is important that employees are aware of what is acceptable. And review what your staff should do at client meetings. Long gone are the days of a boozy working lunch but it essential that you set out clearly what is allowed. Your policy should include everything from regulations, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to what support is provided when an employee has an alcohol problem. Speak to us if you need help with writing this.

Policy written, what happens if you now identify an employee has a problem with alcohol or drugs? We know, it’s awkward. But it needs to be tackled! Honestly is the best policy here, especially if there is a safety risk or their job is at risk. It is important to consider that the individual may be distressed, and that alcohol addiction is a serious illness.

Give them the opportunity to come clean – politely approach your employee and ask if they are okay?  This may be enough of an invitation for them to admit to having a problem. Alternatively, just make them aware of your alcohol and drugs policy. Clearly state that you are not making any accusations, you are just ensuring that they understand the policy.

If an employee has a problem with alcohol it is important to remember that this is often a coping mechanism used to deal with another problem. Your employee needs your support, you can provide this through referral to their GP. On the other hand, a time may arise when an employee’s drunken behaviour gives you reasons to dismiss them or even contact the police.

If you require support with an employee you suspect of being under the influence at work, or would like to know more about an alcohol and drugs policy, Sapience HR would be more than happy to help. Just give us a call on 01736 399384.