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Responsible Alcohol Use Policies at Work

July 3rd, 2018 by Julie Morgan, Inspiring HR


Do you remember watching television shows from the 1960’s and 1970’s where business professionals were regularly seen taking a shot of vodka or slowly sipping on a glass of scotch as they prepared for a very important meeting? Back in the day, many employers permitted employees to drink while at work and sometimes even encouraged drinking during meetings.

Through the years, more and more federal and state employment laws started evolving and drinking on the job became a liability to business owners. Also, employers who held general liability insurance coverage and workers’ compensation were finding that accidents and/or injuries that were a result from an employee being intoxicated on the job, were not always covered under their policies.  Therefore, business owners started adopting strict policies prohibiting drinking alcohol while at work to avoid any unnecessary liabilities.

Is it a good idea to develop a company policy allowing employees to casually drink while working?

In the day and age of millennials, allowing employees to drink while at work has circled back around and is becoming a popular trend among many businesses. There are many businesses serving alcohol in common areas and/or break rooms – a keg in the cafeteria, wine cooler in the break room, or even a bar in the lobby. So, what has changed? Employers still have the same liabilities with employees drinking on the job as they did back in the 1960’s. Why has this become a popular trend again?  Should all employers consider adopting a casual “day drinking” policy? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of having a responsible alcohol use policy and discuss the details needed for its success.

Responsible Alcohol Use on the Job – Pros and Cons

Having a responsible alcohol use policy and allowing employees to consume while at work may be beneficial to a business. However, there are also many risks associated to drinking on the job. Business owners must thoroughly review the pros and cons of drinking on the job to determine if introducing a formal alcohol consumption policy is right for the business.

Pros –

  • For some – relieves stress and anxiety
  • Can increase creativity
  • Can facilitate more receptivity to new ideas/change
  • Encourages workplace social relationships that can improve teamwork
  • Higher sense of job satisfaction = lower turnover rate
  • Employees willing to work late to get the job done
  • For companies in the adult beverage industry, increases familiarity with relevant products
  • Can be perceived as a benefit by employees
  • It may facilitate car pooling

Cons –

  • For some – increases anger and aggression
  • Impaired judgement
    • Increased workplace accidents and injuries
    • Increased sexual harassment and other harassment claims
    • Inappropriate comments and behavior
  • Employees who don’t drink feel excluded; others may feel compelled to drink to fit in
  • Enables alcoholism or alcohol abuse; decreases sobriety
  • Underage drinking
  • Lower quality of work
  • Increased liability after hours (drinking and driving, physical altercations, inappropriate behavior, etc.)
  • Excessive/binge drinking

There will always be risk involved when permitting alcohol at work. However, do the pros outweigh the cons? When is it right to have a responsible alcohol use policy?  Obviously, not all professions (factory, transportation, health care, safety officials, education, etc.) should be allowed to drink on the job for safety reasons.

Things to Consider Before Implementing a Responsible Alcohol Use policy.

As I mentioned above, business owners need to consider if a responsible alcohol use policy will work for their business – outlining and reviewing the pros and cons to permitting alcohol is the first step. The next step is to determine the following:

  1. Does the policy align with the core values and mission statement of the business?
  2. Does the general liability insurance and workers’ compensation cover claims as a result of an employee(s) drinking at work?
  3. Do you have a post-accident, post-injury, or probable cause drug & alcohol testing policy that conflicts with, or complements, your responsible alcohol use policy? How will the two policies interact?
  4. Do you need a license to service alcohol on the premises?
  5. How will you handle intoxicated employees?
  6. Will you provide company paid transportation for intoxicated employees?
  7. How will you limit and track the amount of drinks an employee can consume?
  8. When is it acceptable for employees to drink while at work? Only on Fridays, any day after 4:00 PM, or during a weekly recap meeting?
  9. Will you provide alternatives to employees who don’t drink?
  10. Where will alcohol be available and/or served, and where can employees drink? At their desks, in the break room, in the board room, etc.?
  11. How will you handle complaints, inappropriate behavior, and/or violations of the policy?
  12. Will you have an employee assistance program (EAP) available to employees who may have or may develop an alcohol addiction or problem?

As you can see from the list above, there are so many factors to consider before deciding if alcohol on the job is right for your business. While drinking on the job may sound like a great idea and could increase employee morale, there are many risks associated with the distribution of alcohol at work, which may cause a huge liability to the business.

If you’re drinking at work, you should always drink responsibly.

Click the link to view the recent INFINITI HR blog: Employee Travel – Do I Pay For That? or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance and benefits.


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