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Summer headaches

PUBLISHED: 21:24 28 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:40 20 February 2013

Summer headaches

Summer headaches

As the weather heats up, HR experts look at the issue of temptations bought on by rising temperatures; are these likely to give your business a headache this summer?

Summer headaches

As the weather heats up, HR experts look at the issue of temptations bought on by rising temperatures; are these likely to give your business a headache this summer?

Were used to reminders about appropriate behaviour and conduct at staff Christmas parties, but corporate celebrations during the summer months are often overlooked in terms of the employers duty of care to their staff.

We were reminded of this recently after a number of different employers rang the help-line to ask us the appropriate course of action to take when an employee turns up to work and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. This situation is loaded with dilemmas, not least because of the effects on working relationships and workplace atmosphere that wrongly accusing someone of being drunk in the workplace can have.

The procedure you follow is likely to be driven by your disciplinary procedure which should be in your staff handbook. Its normal to class being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace as gross misconduct so immediate suspension pending an investigation would be expected, which could then lead to dismissal.

Whilst alcoholism isnt protected by the Discrimination element of the Equalities Act, I would stress that you should take account of any underlying issues that are covered, such as depression, which might contribute to the employees condition or reliance on alcohol.

If you plan to breathalyse the employee for evidence make sure you have a policy that says youre allowed to do this, otherwise you can suspend on reasonable belief; if for example their breath smells of alcohol.

If youre accusing someone of being under the influence, you must by default accept that they are not in a fit state to partake in an investigatory or disciplinary meeting at that time and so they should be sent home. Remember, that key phrase duty of care and so you must make sure they get home safely. Dont let them drive home, but if theyre insistent, warn them that you will inform the police, and follow this through if necessary.

Which brings us neatly back to our summer BBQ celebrations. Like the Christmas party, you must view any work related revelry as an extension of the workplace. Allow people to enjoy themselves but ensure any inappropriate behaviour is dealt with and make sure people take responsibility to get home safely. If you can plan it for a weekend when there is no work the next day, so much the better. At least then you wont be faced with potentially having to suspend anyone for being under the influence.

HR Champions Ltd
43BrunswickRoad, Gloucester, GL1 1JS
Tel: 01452 331331


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