Alcohol at work: how should you raise your glass to the New Year?

A preventive alcohol and drug policy allows you as an employer to lay down clear rules in a dialogue with your employees. This is particularly crucial during the first month of the New Year – even if the New Year was already celebrated at work. Heidi Henkens, prevention advisor on psychosocial aspects at Mensura, explains how your company can part take in the festivies responsibly.

A (company) party and accompanying alcoholic drink is part and parcel of the end-of-year festivities and the start of the New Year. “Alcohol is now part of our culture,” says Heidi Henkens. “But we still underestimate the risks. By clearly identifying the risks, as an employer, you are able to set up appropriate preventive measures.”

What is the opinion of Mensura on alcohol in the workplace?

Heidi Henkens: “Normally, alcohol use is unacceptable in the workplace. But a year-end or New Year party may constitute an exception. Employers should draw the line beforehand on what is acceptable by implementing a preventive alcohol and drug policy. Up to them to decide the content of such a policy. Does the company have a zero tolerance attitude? What about employees who come in contact with customers? More stringent rules may be imposed on employees with a safety function.”

What does a good alcohol and drug policy entail?

“First of all, such a policy decides whether alcohol should or should not be available in the workplace. If alcohol is allowed in some cases, such as the New Year party, there must be sufficient focus on prevention and raising awareness among employees. Even if employees (repeatedly) break the proposed rules on alcohol in the workplace, the employer must know which procedures, support and guidance are applicable.”

What about a New Year drink in the workplace?

“Employers can take preventive action by offering a sufficiently varied and interesting range of non-alcoholic drinks. Another possible initiative is to provide disposable chemical alcohol tests or invite the Responsible Young Drivers to take tests at the building exits. You can also arrange taxis for employees who have a bit too much to drink. It’s also best to let us know in advance how long the party will last. This way, your employees can take precautions to get home safely.”

What happens if employees consume alcohol excessively?

“This should be laid down in the alcohol and drug policy. It is important to distinguish between employees who have had one glass too many, and those who exhibit inappropriate behaviour because of that. Employers should ensure that, above all, the latter get home safely. The first working day after the event, they can have a personal chat with them about that.”

After the year-end festivities and New Year celebrations in January, De DrugLijn, VAD and Stichting tegen Kanker are organising an alcohol-free month of February under the umbrella of the  ‘Tournée Minérale‘ awareness campaign. You can read more about it in our blog!