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Why you Should Implement an Alcohol Policy for SME Owners

Lloyds of London recently introduced a new policy that bans drinking alcohol during core working hours in a bid to eradicate lunchtime drinking. Today we’re going to take a look at how employers and small business owners can tackle the issue of drinking during working hours.

When we say drinking during working hours, we don’t actually mean drinking while sat at a desk working or working in any other way, we’re talking about popping to the pub for lunch and having a couple of drinks. Staff members drinking alcohol during lunch or other breaks can have a detrimental effect on your business so it’s an issue that needs to be taken seriously, especially in small businesses with just a few members of staff. One person being the worse for wear will reduce productivity and put an undue strain on the rest of the team members.

If this is an ongoing problem, you may find it having a serious effect on your business in terms of productivity which could lead to cash flow problems or even bring your business to the point of bankruptcy. Implementing an alcohol policy for your business is a great start when it comes to discouraging lunchtime drinking. While there is no legal requirement here in the UK to implement such a policy, health and safety at work legislation does require that both employers and employees maintain a safe working environment at all times. This means that should an incident occur and somebody involved in the incident had had a lunchtime drink, depending on the circumstances, the employer, the employee or both could be deemed liable.

The Transport and Works Act 1992 introduced an 80mg% legal limit for operational staff at British Rail and the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 has established the framework for limits and offences that can be committed by people working in the fields of aviation, transport and shipping. Some industries (the rail and maritime industries in particular) already have mandatory alcohol testing in place as a regulatory requirement.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed that high levels of alcohol consumption are more prevalent in the following occupational groups:

• Construction

• Manufacturing

• Agriculture

• Retail

• Hospitality

Employers who want to introduce an alcohol policy should ensure that it covers all areas of the working day, including times which may be viewed as non-work time, such as lunch breaks working lunches, client visits, etc. The policy should set out exactly what is and isn’t acceptable from employees in relation to the consumption of alcohol and the potential consequences should the policy be breached. It’s then vital that you get each member of the workforce to sign to show that the policy has been received, read and understood – this is an important factor when relying on the details set out in the policy in future.

Any incident of drinking during working time should be dealt with immediately and the worker should be disciplined in accordance with the policy. Frequent breaches of the alcohol policy could be a sign that an employee is having more serious issues that they may need support with – there is plenty of help available nowadays for anybody with an alcohol problem. While the policy itself may not prevent the consumption of alcohol, rigorous enforcement of the policy can ensure that your business doesn’t suffer as a result.