The festive season has been in full swing and an area in the HR arena to monitor even more intensely at this time of year is alcohol in the workplace. Findings show that this is an area that is prone to escalation with the increase of festive events and parties, alongside heightened tensions, and pressures post-Christmas.
Louise Kennedy, Founder and Managing Director, Oculus HR said:
“We’ve seen a recent influx of cases around alcohol in the workplace, and a key point to note is that employers didn’t know or have the resources such as inhouse testing facilities to deal with the situations as they came to light. It’s important to note that alcohol in the workplace is not just a seasonal topic but at this time of year it can lead to enhanced triggers with the increase in social activities, plus the current pressures around the cost of living crisis.
Alcohol for many with this dependency is a coping mechanism and employers and employees need to be aware of some of the signs to look out for so an intervention can take place, allowing the relevant policy and procedures to take impact.”
As an employer you have a legal duty to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare and an understanding of the signs of alcohol within the working environment will help to manage health and safety risks in your workplace. There are many triggers and warning signs which include:
- unexplained or frequent absences
- a change in behaviour
- unexplained dips in productivity
- more accidents or near-misses
- performance or conduct issues
Having a clear alcohol policy will assist to ensure that the right mechanisms are in place to deal with the situation when it presents itself. It is vital that employers are aware of the potential consequences for their business and procedures need to be in place to action cases related to alcohol at work.
“Alcohol in the workplace can link to other areas such as mental health and wellbeing, so it’s important to have joined up thinking when looking at policies and procedures. We’ve had cases where mental health support and counselling has been utilised to support an employee. This was part of one particular case which brought to light drinking on the job, which opened up a swarm of issues as part of the process.
A degree of flexibility around policies is also recommended so that there is an element of flexibility for the business to do what they need given the individual situations. If the business doesn’t have a policy the business needs to ensure that a best practice way of working is used, this gives people flexibility and doesn’t tie people too tightly.”
“Another issue is employees and their reluctance to question a colleague’s behaviour. There needs to be clear communication channels and processes in place, so an employee has the confidence to raise the concern with management. If triggers are left it can lead to serious health, safety and welfare incidents in the workplace.”
Oculus HR recently launched their Real World HR podcast, and one of the episodes focusses on mental health and the subject of alcohol in the workplace and its impact with special guest, John Devitt from Recovery for Life.
“With the podcast I want to address HR in a relaxed and informal setting, with some amazing industry and topical specialists. It is vital for businesses to have up-to-date advice and guidance to hand and this format is great for employers to hear about real life case examples and the chance to listen to some amazing guests.”