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What to do if you think a colleague is drinking too much

Tackling when and how much employees drink can be a daunting experience for employers and employees alike. But by following these handy hints from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) you can save yourselves significant grief, time and expense in the long run.

Employers are duty bound, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of their employees. You could be prosecuted if you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of excess alcohol to continue working and place themselves or others at risk. Employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do.

What to do if a colleague is drinking too much

Any business, no matter how big or small, can take effective measures to reduce the risks of problem drinking in the workplace. By following these practical steps, from the HSE, you can significantly improve the outlook both for your employee and the business.

Explore whether if there is a problem

Find out from your employee what they know about the effects of alcohol on health and safety. You could also seek to ascertain their opinions about drinking alcohol during working hours and gauge their understanding of rules and restrictions about alcohol use in your business.

You may also want to explore HR records in relation to:

  • Sickness absence
  • Productivity
  • Accident records and
  • Disciplinary problems.

Get an intervention team together

You will need to consult others when deciding what to do. In larger organisations, you should set up a working party led by a senior manager to look at the issue, also involving the occupational health practitioner where available. In smaller businesses this might not be possible but you may find it useful to talk to other managers, supervisors, staff representatives or trade union representatives and other employees. Port of Call often leads interventions in the workplace, or we can offer advice and guidance on the process of intervention.

Take action

Many larger organisations have a policy for training and support for intervention in the workplace. Managers need to understand company rules and know what to do if they suspect an employees’ drinking is affecting their work. They also need to be aware of the implications of not tackling possible alcohol misuse. Your local alcohol advisory service can help to train managers to recognise an alcohol problem and the most appropriate course of action.

Check your policies and procedures regularly

As with any policies and procedures, you should regularly revisit and double check that your organisation’s approach to supporting colleagues with any alcohol misuse issues are effective and implement any timely updates wherever necessary.

Ultimately, reassure your employee that you will fully support them if they accept help and take this opportunity to point them in the direction of professional help. A structured and professional intervention can be also extremely effective, especially if you are unsure how to confront the behaviour proactively and sensitively.

For more information please visit www.hse.gov.uk.

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About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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