Hospitality | Dealing with employees drinking on the job
Drinking on the job is no laughing matter for hospitality employers.
When working in a bar, restaurant or hotel, it can be easy for employees to fall into a lifestyle of consuming alcohol and/or using drugs while working. While some employees may argue that they do so to stay awake during the long hours or night shifts, cope with stress, or appease customers, drinking on the job poses a great danger to not only themselves, but their colleagues and guests too.
Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees.
If an employee drives as part of their duties or use knives or sharp utensils as part of their role, there are high risks of workplace accidents occurring, particularly if the employee is drinking while on shift.
As such, if you knowingly let an employee who is intoxicated carry on working and this puts them or their colleagues at risk, you could face prosecution.
Drinking on the job could also mean the employee struggles to carry out their duties, makes costly mistakes, and is largely unproductive.
Plus, if your customers realise that your employees are working under the influence, it could damage your business’ image and reputation.
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Setting clear rules
In the interests of health and safety, and to protect your hospitality business from a cacophony of negative consequences, it’s important to have clear rules on alcohol use in place.
The best way to do this is through a clear restaurant employee drinking policy, which should form part of your Employee Handbook and be readily accessible to all employees.
Within your employee drinking policy, you may impose a strict ban on consuming alcohol prior to or during working hours or breaks. Alternatively, you may choose to permit moderate drinking during lunch breaks or when with customers, provided this doesn’t impair the employee’s ability to perform their work.
This is ultimately at the employer’s discretion, but whatever rules you impose, it’s important to make sure that they are clear and reasonable. If you’re not sure where to start, WorkNest can draft a fair and robust employee drinking policy for you.
Your policy should clearly state that if an employee reports for work when unfit due to the influence of alcohol, this may be regarded as a gross misconduct offence. This means they will normally face disciplinary action under your disciplinary procedure.
Some hospitality employers reserve the right to require an employee to undergo a medical examination to find out the cause of the problem. If an employee refuses to undertake the examination in these circumstances, their refusal will normally be treated as gross misconduct.
If the examination confirms they were intoxicated, the employer may reserve the right to suspend the employee while they investigate the matter. After the investigation has occurred, they may decide to take disciplinary action.
Always seek advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure you are carrying out a fair procedure.
WorkNest: keeping your team productive and problem-free
Don’t have an Employee Handbook in place, or concerned it hasn’t been reviewed in a while? Our fixed-fee Employment Law and HR service includes support with drafting and updating your essential employment documents, including your contracts and handbook, to ensure compliance with the law and best practice.
Plus, with ongoing support from a small team of experts, you have the benefit of unlimited professional advice around any employee relations challenge, including dealing with an member of staff who is frequently consuming alcohol or using drugs at work.
To find out how we can help your hospitality business make light work of HR matters, call our team on 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.