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Can You Ban Your Staff From Drinking During Work Hours?

View profile for Gemma Barker
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Can You Ban Your Staff From Drinking During Work Hours?

Gone are the days of liquid pub lunches and business meetings over a pint.

A growing trend sees big insurance firms banning their employees from drinking during working hours. Lloyds and the London Metal Exchange are amongst those firms which are putting a stop to liquid lunches and boozy brunches by amending their policies to exclude drinking alcohol between the hours of 9-5 Monday to Friday.

For most it goes without saying that it is not acceptable to be intoxicated during working hours, but where is the line when it comes to business meetings in social settings? As alcohol affects everyone differently, a universal ban seems to be the approach which most employers are taking.

If the trend continues to grow it is essential that your workplace policy is clear with regards to drinking during work hours. Therefore the first thing to consider is whether the policy has already been implemented to reflect the ban? Information on policies is usually held by HR. Another point to consider is what reach does the policy have? Does it affect direct employees only; as is the case with Lloyds, or will it affect all employees such as freelancers?

One way which the policy could be enforced is through alcohol testing; however it must be well-thought-out whether it would be necessary for the workplace to carry out the test. It is reasonable that in dangerous jobs such as a construction worker or a taxi driver, an alcohol test may be necessary.

If an alcohol test is to be applied it should be made clear to the employees what the repercussions may be if an employee refuses or fails the test.

The employer must have reasonable grounds to request a test be carried out, if no reasonable grounds are stated a claim of constructive unfair dismissal may arise as requesting the test may damage the relationship of mutual trust and confidence.

The key for employers to avoid any claims being brought against them is to keep the testing fair and consistent and if a positive result is found, it should be investigated fully before being acted upon.

At Gepp Solicitors our Employment Law Team will be happy to assist you with any aspect of employment law. If you  would like to seek advice on this topic, please contact our Head of Department, Alexandra Dean on 01245 228141 or via deana@gepp.co.uk.