The year is coming to an end and with this comes the celebrations and functions that are either held at the employer’s premises or off site. Either way the question often arises as to what, if any, the employer’s obligations are when providing alcohol at these functions.
In terms of the OHS Act General Safety Regulation 2A. Intoxication.
- An employer or a user, as the case may be, shall not permit any person who is or who appears to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, to enter or remain at a workplace.
- No person at a workplace shall be under the influence of or have in his or her possession or partake of or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs.
Employee ‘intoxication’ is a major concern and you will note that the OHS Act has placed upon employers the duty of prohibiting persons to enter or remain at a workplace who appear to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.
These restrictions, together with COIDA and the implications of a possible injury on duty, have legal implications for employers and you should ensure that not only is it vital that these provisions be communicated to all employees, but that you keep a record of these communications. Employers should be in a position to demonstrate that they have made an effort to try and manage employees’ conduct around alcohol consumption, or preventing them from driving when over the legal limit or in an intoxicated state during these functions.
At social functions on the employer’s premises, the employer should ensure that employees have ‘signed off duty’ prior to commencement of the function. This will avoid any possible claims of ‘injuries on duty’, and consider the following steps to reduce possible liability:
- Advise employees regarding the desired behaviour during work functions. This could include the employer limiting the number of drinks for the duration of the function.
- Providing access to breathalyser tests.
- Place a disclaimer in the area or pub.
Whilst year-end functions should be occasions to unwind and relax with colleagues outside of the normal working environment, both employers and employees still have certain responsibilities around their conduct, and would be expected to consider that both interests are not negatively affected.