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, or to cope with stress. Or indeed, they may suggest it can help with the revelry felt by their customers. 

Either way, it poses a great danger to not other themselves, but their colleagues and guests. 

Health and Safety is a big deal!

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 employees. If the 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.

If you knowingly let an employee who is intoxicated carry on working and this puts the employee or other colleagues at risk, you could face prosecution.

Drinking on the job could also mean the employee struggles to perform their work, make costly mistakes and be largely unproductive. 

Plus if your customers realise that your employees are working under the influence, it can damage your business’ image and reputation.

Get clear rules in place

In the interests of health and safety and to protect your hospitality business, you should have clear rules on alcohol use – ensuring that you have a clear restaurant employee drinking policy, for instance. This policy should be found in your Employee Handbook. This handbook should be readily accessible to all employees.

An employer may strictly ban employees from consuming alcohol prior to or during working hours or breaks. Others may allow moderate drinking during lunch breaks or when with customers as long as it does not impair their ability to perform their work.

It is subject to your discretion, but make sure the rules are clear and reasonable.

If you need support writing your Employee Handbook a HR expert from Ellis Whittam can help.

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 then take disciplinary action. 

Seek advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure you are carrying out a fair procedure.

Get expert legal advice

If you do not have an Employee Handbook in place or it has not been reviewed in a long time, seek advice from our Employment Law Advisers. They will be able to draft and update your Employee Handbook to ensure compliance with the law and best practice.

Equally, they can provide you advice if you are facing specific challenges with an employee who is frequently consuming alcohol or using drugs at work.

Contact us to find out how we can support your hospitality business.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

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