When it comes to alcohol we are frequently asked “What should be included in an alcohol policy?” In this article we detail all the sections you need to include in your companies alcohol policy.
As with any type of health and safety policy, your alcohol policy should be clear and unambiguous. It should accurately describe the company’s attitude towards alcohol use and its expectations in relation to employees’ behaviour. Employees should be made aware of its contents and the policy should be readily available for employees to refer to.
This is the headline section of the policy. It should set out the company’s intentions towards managing alcohol. It should also describe why a policy is required and who the policy applies to. Be aware that if you are going to set different standards for different grades and types of employee this could lead to difficulties; best practise would be to apply the same standards to all.
The employees responsible for administering the policy should be named. This should include the person with overall responsibility for managing the policy. It should also detail the duties of managers and supervisors and any expectations placed on ordinary employees to report problems or concerns.
This section should clearly describe how the company expects its employees to behave to ensure that their alcohol consumption is not detrimental to their work or the health and safety of others. This includes turning up at work the morning after drinking, driving to work whilst under the influence and use of company vehicles or machinery.
Do not forget to consider what your approach to staff functions will be. What impression does it give to staff if company parties supply free or heavily subsidised alcohol? In particular, if they are held mid week. You must ensure that you are not tacitly encouraging staff to drive the next morning under the influence of alcohol.
This section should also outline any screening and testing programmes for alcohol that the company will implement.
Do the rules apply all of the time or are there exceptions? Is it ever ok to drink during work time? How are you going to manage employees who may have issues with alcohol or who are undergoing excessive periods of stress and have turned to alcohol to help?
Help and Confidentiality
You may find that simply dismissing an employee who has an issue with alcohol for gross misconduct puts your company on the wrong end of the court system. A judge may find that a dismissal is unfair if an employer makes no attempt to help an employee who is in this situation; especially if the situation is exacerbated by work related stresses.
Part of the policy should outline how employees with problems are identified in the first instance and how they are subsequently treated. Training of managers and supervisors is vital to identifying and managing such employees with sensitivity. The policy should make clear the support available and emphasise that issues will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Do not assume that your employees are aware of the effects that alcohol has on their health. Education and information are powerful tools in promoting a good attitude towards drinking safely. Ensure that your staff understand the implications of being drunk or hungover at work, not only with regard to their own safety but to that of their colleagues’ as well.
Finally, you may reach a point with some employees where your only course of action is via the disciplinary route. Your policy should make clear where the boundaries are and the type of action that will be taken in such circumstances.
A good policy should ensure that employees know what is acceptable and where the boundaries lie in relation to alcohol.
Download the HSE publication “Don’t mix it” here (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg240.pdf) It contains a five-step approach to managing alcohol and employees. Use our recommendations in this article, together with the information detailed in the publication to identify whether your policy covers all bases or whether it requires updating.