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Is The Sun Over The Yardarm Yet?

The sun is shining and we all want to enjoy the good weather while it lasts. The days of wine and roses are not long, especially in the UK. The idea of a British summer conjures up images of strawberries, cricket, outdoor living in suitably floaty light clothing, BBQ s, long evenings and pub gardens (and possibly an annoying wasp or two!) Most of us know how to enjoy the good weather and the benefits which come with it sensibly. Brighter mornings and longer evenings can make us all feel more cheerful. A dose of vitamin D (and sun cream) can be good for the skin. Many like to relax after the day’s work and enjoy an evening in the garden with a cold beverage.

But there’s the rub. Official figures indicate that Britain as a whole is found to drink a vast amount of alcohol, especially in these summer months. We enjoy our snifters a bit too much. Alcohol is a toxin and too much of it too often is bad news for health, for society, for work. While an employee’s private life is his own, if issues are brought into the work place they must be dealt with.

Alcohol and drugs can stay in the blood stream for long periods of time, meaning if an employee spends his weekend soaking up sun and wine in the pub garden, the alcohol can still be affecting him when he comes to work on Monday morning. This may affect productivity as a minimum. It could have greater consequences; especially those who have to drive vehicles or operate machinery. While most employees are sensible enough to know this; there are some who do not.

In safety critical businesses, it’s wise to have an alcohol and drugs policy which also allows random testing to take place. If employees know that they may have to prove they are not under the influence of drink or drugs, it will deter them from pushing the boundaries and over doing it. Your policy should clearly state what will happen if an employee is found to be drunk (or driving over the limit) or using drugs. On average, it takes the human body one hour to process a single unit of alcohol. A single pint of larger or beer contains approximately two units as does a small glass of wine. While this does not seem like much, it soon adds up.

Even if you don’t have such a policy you still have a duty to ensure that employees are working safely. You may have to send some employees home to recover in some cases (don’t allow them to drive) and deal with it when they’re fully fit.

Sometimes employees will consume too much alcohol on an habitual basis. And that can lead to a different set of problems. Alcoholism is an illness and one which you may well have to deal with. Take an empathetic approach and encourage an open door policy, while such incidence are not acceptable, it is better that they tell you to begin with than have to face serious consequences of the many potential outcomes.

All employees are entitled to enjoy their private time as they wish but they should be reminded that being under the influence of alcohol and drugs in the workplace is classed as gross misconduct and will not be tolerated.

Tips from Drink Smarter

  • The best way to stay healthy is not to drink more than the sensible drinking guidelines. The guidelines are lower than you might think – women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day and men 3-4.
  • Have at least two alcohol-free days every week, giving your body a break.
  • Small is beautiful. A large glass of wine can contain over 3 units of alcohol. Think about how that adds up over a night if you’re drinking more than one, and perhaps go for a smaller glass for a change.
  • Set yourself a drinking budget and stick to it.
  • Measure your drinks. Use a unit measure cup to keep track of how much you’re pouring at home.
  • Eat a good meal before you start drinking, or enjoy some snacks while you drink. This helps to slow down the effect of alcohol on your body.
  • Alternate alcohol with soft drinks or water. It will help you cut down the number of units you consume and avoid a hangover the next day. Drink water regularly whilst you’re out drinking and also when you get home to keep hydrate.
  • Know your strength. The strength of drinks varies dramatically depending on what you’re drinking. So make sure you know how many units are in your drink, and keep tabs on your intake. A cocktail can contain as many as 4 units, while a 750ml bottle of table wine (12% vol) totals 9 units
  • Keep a drinking diary, noting how much you drank and where and you’ll get a better idea of your alcohol intake.
  • Try to avoid multi-buy offers. Their prices might tempt you, but so will the big quantities of alcohol you’ll have in the cupboard.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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