Is It Illegal To Have A Drink At Work?

Posted: 12 Dec, 2018.

For many, the festivities of Christmas have well and truly begun.

We are now entering the season of indulgence for all those that get in to the Christmas spirit. Alcohol consumption being a main theme of December as many participate in parties and gatherings. But what does the law say on drinking at work?

In general, there are no laws specifically concerning the consumption of alcohol at work. But for some industries, other laws apply which means drinking on the job is a massive no-no. For instance, any job that means you will have to drive, operate machinery or public transport, means you have to abide by either the Transport and Works Act 1992 or the Road Traffic Act 1988. Both of these laws make it an offence to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol. Whether you drive a bus, train, lorry or any vehicle, having a drink at lunch is not allowed.

Can you enjoy a drink if you don’t drive?

This means if your job role doesn’t require you to drive, then you can have a drink, right? WRONG. Even if your job doesn’t involve driving, many workplaces will have a zero-tolerance attitude to drinking during office hours. Employers have a legal Duty of Care to their employees that they will not cause them unreasonable harm or loss. As part of this Duty of Care, many employers prohibit the consumption of alcohol during office hours. This is to ensure that alcohol does not inhibit an employee’s productivity and safety.

Other workplaces may not mind you drinking on your lunch break as long as it isn’t on the premises. An employer may have a strict policy on the consumption of alcohol on the premises, but they might be more relaxed about you going elsewhere for a drink on your lunch. Even so, drinking at lunch should be kept to a moderate level. Excessive consumption may cause you to be sent home due to the Duty of Care employers have to their staff. If an employer knowingly lets a worker under the influence of excess alcohol continue work, they could be prosecuted if the employee is putting themselves or others at risk.

Check Your Policy

There may not be any specific laws relating to drinking alcohol during office hours. However, your workplace will have their own policy on the consumption of alcohol. It is important to read this policy to ensure you clearly understand where the company stands on drinking. Even though your workplace may have a relaxed attitude to a drink at lunch, it is important to only consume alcohol in moderation. Drinking too much will cause you to lose focus on the job at hand and, in some circumstances, cause an accident and put others at risk. Remember to be sensible and save the majority of festive drinking for your own time outside of the office.

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