Every employee looks forward to lunchtime. It’s that period of day when work takes a back seat and we get the time to relax and unwind before completing the rest of the day’s tasks. Despite the fact that lunch breaks can be seen as free time by employees, that is not necessarily the case. Instead, they should be considered as an extension of the working day, as the activity employees undertake during their lunch may impact their work and performance in the hours which follow.

Alcohol and Drug Use policies can be a necessity for preventing and disciplining employees if they consume alcohol or other drugs during any part of their working day. The policy should clearly specify that it applies to time which may not strictly be seen as working time, such as lunch breaks or client visits. Any consequences and procedures which can follow in the event of a breach should also be included. This is essential in order for issues to be dealt with effectively and consistently. If you do not have an Alcohol and Drugs Use policy in place, then you should consider introducing one. You should obtain evidence that all employees are aware of the policy and have read it. Asking them to sign it will confirm this and can be used as proof that the employee was aware of the policy in the event of an issue or breach.

Any alcohol or drug related issues should be dealt with as early as possible. Offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to all your employees will encourage them to seek help in the initial stages if they feel they are facing an alcohol related health problem. Providing confidential counselling can be an alternative to an EAP. Advise employees on the support they can receive through services offered by your company. In addition to that, managerial staff should be trained how to react if approached with alcohol or drug related issues. Providing training to your staff will ensure that everyone is aware of the rules, policies and consequences which can arise.

Alcohol or drug consumption that occurs during lunch breaks can be quite challenging to manage, particularly as it may be done off works premises, however if you take into account the above protocols and procedures then employers will hold the necessary steps to take action should this begin or continue to occur as part of the working day.

By Alan Price, Peninsula HR Director