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Alcohol in the workplace

29 Jan 2019

  • Addiction

Alcohol in the workplace

Alcohol at work,  an explosive cocktail. Although a glass of cider is accepted during the leaving drinks for a soon-to-be ex-colleague (to be able to really enjoy the farewell speeches), alcohol at work is not harmless. On the one hand, it is controlled by law, and on the other hand, its causes can be multiple and its consequences significant.

The most affected professions and a wide range of causes

We’re not all equal when it comes to alcohol at work. Inserm stresses that difficult working conditions are a significant factor in alcoholism: „A drink in a professional context is often seen in the most physically demanding occupations: building, agriculture, handling and public-facing professions“. Dealing with the physical difficulties encountered in these jobs is not the only reason that an employee turns to alcohol. Drinking one or more glasses during the working day can happen for several reasons:

– Professional: excessive workload, conflict with management or colleagues, stress, etc.

– Personal: financial difficulties, relationship problems, bereavement, etc.

– More insidious: social drinking. Business lunches and formal cocktail events can lead to this kind of alcoholism.


Effects and risks

The effects of alcohol vary markedly from one individual to another but whether it’s been consumed in the workplace or the day before during a big night out, the consequences are the same:

– Difficulties of concentration.

– Nausea.

– Headaches or migraines.

– Want to sleep, etc.


And the risks due to one-off or recurrent significant alcohol consumption are numerous:

– Loss of efficiency, slowness in performing tasks, lack of concentration and difficulty in retaining information.

– Risk of accident at work for the person and others.

– Risk of road accidents (increased for professionals using their vehicles: commercial, delivery personnel, truck drivers, bus drivers, taxis, etc.)

– Frequent absences.

– Mood disorders that can cause conflicts with colleagues and/or hierarchy.

– Inability to make decisions and lack of motivation.


What the legislation says

In France, the Labour Code regulates alcohol consumption at work. As such, Article R4228-20 stipulates that only beer, wine, cider and perry are authorised in the workplace. Since July 2014, in accordance with a decree published in the official journal, employers can prohibit the consumption of any alcoholic beverages. The latter must take the necessary measures to ensure safety and to protect the physical and mental health of its employees. Employers have the right to carry out alcohol testing if the rules of the company have provided for this. Penalties may also be imposed because of personal consumption of alcohol, that is to say outside the hours and places of work, if it affects the employee’s performance.

In Switzerland, the employer must in particular ensure that the worker is not obliged to consume alcoholic beverages (art. para. 2bs LTr). The employer may also limit or prohibit the consumption of such drinks (Art. 35 para. 3 LTO 3).

In any case, if an employee or colleague regularly presents the signs mentioned, he or she is consuming alcohol regularly and there may be a problem of alcoholism. It is important to act so as not to let him or her come to any harm.