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Employee Handbook Alcohol Policy: What Can Be Covered?

19 January, 2024

A gavel on a sound block and a safety hat on top of a book

Alcohol consumption in the workplace is a sensitive issue. It can lead to safety risks and expose companies to legal liabilities. Hence, creating an employee handbook on alcohol policy is crucial to address this matter. This document outlines the guidelines for alcohol use in the workplace. It may include the policy objectives and prohibited behaviours for workers during business hours. It may also cover the testing methods the employer may use and their reasons for testing.

Substance use issues are significant problems for employers seeking to ensure workplace health and safety. This is why they must actively take steps to prevent alcohol-related incidents from occurring. The effects of alcohol include impaired judgment, coordination, and cognitive abilities. Hence, employers must implement disciplinary action for those violating the policy. This article will present the topics an alcohol policy can cover, such as the objectives, types of testing procedures, and disciplinary actions.

Employee Handbook Alcohol Policy – Objectives and Legal Duties

Maintaining a safe and healthy working environment is one of the legal duties of companies. To help with this, companies create an employee handbook alcohol policy. This is an important document that outlines the guidelines and expectations related to alcohol use in the workplace. The objectives of the policy may include preventing potential accidents and negative impacts on workplace productivity from irresponsible alcohol consumption, such as increased absenteeism and tardiness.

Another possible objective of a formal alcohol policy is to deter alcohol misuse by establishing alcohol testing. Tests can identify those misusing alcohol. Hence, this allows employers to prevent impaired individuals from endangering the workplace and public safety. Furthermore, it can establish education programs on alcohol abuse, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and disciplinary actions.

Furthermore, the company policy can help ensure the business complies with relevant laws and standards, such as the Work Health and Safety Act. This is crucial, especially for high-risk industries. Moreover, it helps mitigate legal risks by establishing safeguards and listing prohibited behaviours.

Prohibited Behaviours and Activities

These are some examples of prohibited behaviours and activities that companies can include in their policies:

  • Employees should not consume alcoholic beverages during business hours or while representing the company.
  • Workers are prohibited from bringing liquor and other illicit substances within company premises.
  • Employers should not arrive at work while intoxicated due to prior consumption of alcohol.
  • Workers must not attempt to conduct safety-sensitive tasks while impaired.
  • Individuals must not sell or distribute alcoholic beverages while within company premises.
  • Employees should not engage in dangerous behaviours, such as improper use of equipment or heavy machinery.

A person handing over a urine sample to a professional

Employee Handbook Alcohol Policy – Types of Testing Procedures

Companies may include several types of testing procedures in their employee handbook alcohol policy. Their choice can vary depending on their priorities and needs. Breath testing is a common screening procedure for alcohol misuse. It is an effective method for measuring the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels of employees. It has a detection period of up to 24 hours.

Another testing procedure is urine testing. This uses urine samples to trace ethanol or its metabolites. An Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) urine test can detect alcohol consumption for up to 80 hours. Moreover, saliva testing is often used during onsite testing. It uses a convenient and non-invasive procedure for collecting saliva samples. It is also ideal for detecting recent alcohol consumption since its detection window is about 12 hours.

Meanwhile, blood testing is one of the most accurate tests. It typically has a detection period of up to 12 hours, but Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) blood tests can extend this to weeks. Lastly, hair follicle screening helps acquire a history of alcohol use. It has a detection period of 90 days.

Reasons to Test

There are various reasons for testing that businesses may include in their policy. Firstly, pre-employment testing. It allows employers to determine applicants fit for safety-sensitive positions and those more prone to reckless behaviours. Secondly, random testing. It is an effective deterrent to alcohol misuse. It involves selecting random participants for an unannounced test.

Thirdly, reasonable suspicion testing. This means that companies may test individuals who are visibly intoxicated. Signs of intoxication may include slurred speech, lessened motor control and coordination, and erratic behaviour. Lastly, post-accident testing. This enables companies to determine and gather evidence about the cause of the incident.

A manager handing over a piece of paper to a troubled employee

Employee Handbook Alcohol Policy – Disciplinary Actions for Violations

An important part of an employee handbook alcohol policy is the disciplinary actions the company may take after discovering a violation. This can serve as an effective deterrent for alcohol misuse by informing employees about the penalties they may incur if they violate the policy.

The assigned disciplinary action may vary depending on the infraction. Verbal and written warnings are common for mild or first-time violations. Meanwhile, suspensions are often done to give workers time to reflect on their actions. They may also use this time to seek help from medical professionals with the help of EAPs. Companies may also demote individuals, especially those in safety-sensitive positions, if they breach the company policy.

Lastly, termination is the most severe disciplinary action. This may occur after a significant accident or repeated violations. It is crucial for companies to distribute these penalties fairly regardless of position and seniority. Doing so can help improve morale and productivity within the workplace. It also establishes their commitment to creating a safe and healthy work environment.

Suggested Recovery and Assistance Programs

A comprehensive recovery and assistance program for employees dealing with alcohol abuse can help ensure individual well-being and the overall success of the company. EAPs may provide support, resources, and guidance to help employees overcome alcohol addiction and work towards a healthier lifestyle.

Companies may provide counselling services, access to treatment centres, educational workshops, and support groups to help workers with Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs). Altogether, these can help employees recover from their addiction issues. Offering EAPs also shows the commitment of the employers and creates a supportive working environment. This can improve morale and boost productivity. It can also prevent high turnover rates.

Conclusion

An employee handbook alcohol policy is a document that outlines the guidelines for alcohol use within company premises. It also states the expectations of the company towards its employees and the restricted behaviours and activities. The policy should also cover the tests the employer may use to identify those misusing alcohol. They may use breath, saliva, urine, blood, or hair tests. In addition, they may include the reasons for testing, such as pre-employment, random, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion.

Another important topic to cover is the disciplinary actions for violating the policy. This may involve warnings, suspensions, demotion, and termination. Lastly, the policy may include EAPs to help employees struggling with AUD. Altogether, by establishing a comprehensive policy, companies can maintain workplace health and safety. Employers interested in using workplace breathalysers to identify alcohol misuse in the workplace may view the devices at Breathalysers Australia.

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