Ho ho ho…it’s Christmas time. This means it is party time—work parties, social parties and community parties. With a lot of parties usually comes alcohol. Here is a sober discussion about grog and work to enlighten you about this aspect of managing human resources.

We HR people tend to bang on about the effects that drinking has on a workplace. We highlight worst case scenarios. That’s because this often ends up being costly for businesses. It’s one of the most common issues HR Managers deal with over the silly season.

The hangover absenteeism statistics are staggering

The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction found that hangovers:

  • cost Australian businesses $3 billion a year in absenteeism
  • add up to 11.5 million sick days per year!

Hangovers can also mean:

  • employees have a reduced ability to perform
  • accidents or near misses are more frequent
  • there is more pressure on the rest of the team to make up for the hungover employee.

You need a drug and alcohol policy

It’s essential to have a well written drug and alcohol policy that explains what the repercussions are for being ‘under the influence’ at work.

A good policy should

  • spell out rules for the employees and provide guidance for your managers
  • aim to protect both the safety of employees and the Company’s reputation
  • explain the importance of employees being fit to work.

Some policies are designed to have ‘zero tolerance’ and some are designed with a little more leniency. It’s important to consider the type of environment you operate in when designing your policy.

Treat policy breaches seriously and apply them across the board so the policy is effective. Make it a fair document that you enforce consistently.

But you still need to assess each case on its own merits. Apply a degree of sensitivity if the employee was suffering from a trauma or mental health issue.

You may want to be lenient if it’s a once-off hangover caused by your own work party the night before, and the employee is not a risk to health and safety. It could be that the Company may be liable for the state the employee is in.

A good plan is to make your end of year bash before a weekend or rostered day off, so that everyone can get into the festive spirit.

Duty of care

Remember as an employer you have a legal obligation and a duty of care to address alcohol and drug issues. This means you need to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of all workers, plus contractors or clients who could be affected by the actions of your employees.

Is the inebriated person an OHS risk to themselves or others? If they are, you will need to take swift action and ensure you remove the risk to your workplace.

If they are hungover, they may even still be drunk. According to the Australia Alcohol and Drug Foundation, being hungover at work can be dangerous as the employee may still have a high Blood Alcohol Content.

What if the employee is repeatedly hungover?

If you have regularly hungover employees, then we suggest you have a serious chat/counselling session with them about expected standards of conduct and work outputs. You may need to escalate your disciplinary processes in line with your policy.

When deciding how to proceed with your hungover/intoxicated employees, you need to ensure you follow your own policy consistently. That’s so you don’t end up with legal challenges about your processes.

Give us a call at HR Gurus if you need:

  • guidance with drafting a Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policy
  • help in how to deal with hungover employees at your workplace.

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