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Liquid lunches: can an employer stop staff drinking during working hours?

We recently saw Lloyd’s of London banning a lunchtime pint during the working day but how far can an employer police what workers do when they are outside the office on an unpaid lunch break?

We set out below four issues to consider before enforcing a workplace drugs or alcohol policy or testing regime.

Why do you need an alcohol policy?

Unless your environment is safety-critical, it is important to be clear as to why any policy banning alcohol consumption will be necessary.

One of the key issues to consider is whether or not workplace testing is necessary. Deciding to implement testing to minimise reputational damage or as a deterrent could be challenged.

Ensure any requirement for alcohol testing is lawful

If you decide to implement alcohol testing, it’s important to make clear in your policy what the consequences of refusing or failing a test will be.

It’s also crucial to fully investigate any positive findings. In a recent case, a bus driver was awarded £84,000 compensation for unfair dismissal as his positive cocaine test was caused by handling contaminated bank notes from passengers.

Be consistent

Any decision to test or police alcohol consumption at work should be applied fairly, and not limited to staff based on certain characteristics which could lead to discrimination claims.

Rights to privacy

An employee could argue that a requirement to take a drug or alcohol test interferes with their Human Rights and is an invasion of privacy.

An employer must be able to demonstrate that the test was a proportionate way of meeting a legitimate business aim.

Find out more

MLR are running a series of workshops covering the introduction of an Alcohol and Drug testing strategy. Click here for more details