The festive season is fast approaching and that means one thing – Christmas parties. While many look forward to socialising with colleagues or clients it’s easy to end up drinking more than you intended, potentially putting yourself in an embarrassing or dangerous situation.
But it’s not just during the party itself when people should be aware – the morning-after can sometimes cause more problems than the night before.
Danny Clarke, Group Operations Director for the ELAS Group said: “Everyone wants to let their hair down at the work Christmas party and most will organise lifts or taxis to take them home afterwards. However, few people consider how long it takes for alcohol to leave their system. If you have to work the day after the office Christmas party when you’ve been out late drinking, then there is a good chance you might be over the legal limit when driving to work in the morning.”
In a 2015 survey commissioned by ELAS, around a quarter of the British workforce admitted to driving to work the morning after drinking while feeling over the limit:
A year on from this survey, we wanted to see if there was still an issue with people driving to or from work whilst under the influence and submitted a Freedom of Information request to Greater Manchester Police, asking:
1 in 5 of all drink driving arrests during December happened Mon-Fri between 6am-10pm, falling to just 1 in 8 during January. This is a clear indication that more people might be going to or from work under the influence in December as a result of Christmas parties.
1 in 3 drug driving arrests in Greater Manchester between 1/12/2015 and 31/1/2016 happened from Monday to Friday between 6am and 10pm and employers can’t let their guard down once the festive season is over. Statistics show the number of arrests actually rises in January to 36% – up from 25% in December.
Danny Clarke says: “It’s important to note that these numbers are just the arrests of people under the influence of illegal drugs. All drugs carry health risks, including cognitive-enhancing drugs or prescription medication so the actual number of employees who are potentially working under the influence might be considerably higher.”
Employment law consultant Emma O’Leary says it is important for employers to have strict policies in place, and a robust drugs and alcohol policy is essential. She says: “It might seem obvious that being under the influence of alcohol at work is a dismissible offence, but this is not necessarily the case. What amounts to ‘being under the influence’ and whether or not this is acceptable in a work environment can vary from company to company. Some companies might encourage boozy lunch meetings, others may have employees who operate heavy machinery and therefore apply a zero tolerance policy – which would include anyone testing positive the morning after the night before. Your drugs and alcohol policy needs to be clear on this, defining what ‘under the influence’ means to your business and setting out the process for testing – is it random, what happens with the results, what do the results mean and what happens if an employee refuses to test?”
She continues: “While nobody wants to be a Grinch, and it might seem heavy-handed to insist that staff understand that drug and alcohol misuse could cost them their job, there are very severe penalties for employers who fail to prevent accidents caused by the actions of an employee. If these actions happen following an official work function it is even worse. It is better to let a worker go than risk the business going under just because that individual chose to put their own enjoyment ahead of the safety and welfare of their colleagues or the public.”
ELAS conducted an unofficial poll at a recent event in Manchester, providing breath tests to attendees throughout the course of a working day. At 9:15am one man blew a 38 – the legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. On 9th November a parcel driver was arrested in Manchester after he tested positive for drugs in a roadside test, another incident which Danny Clarke says shows that more work needs to be done in this area.
He says: “Workplace testing has been used by companies for decades but, unfortunately, we’ve also seen drug and alcohol usage dramatically increase over this time as well. Companies need to remember that while testing can be used to identify those who come to work whilst impaired it’s just as important to take a proactive approach to the issue, educating workers and minimising the chance of them taking the risk of coming to work whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
Drink drive offences = 303
Drug drive offences = 61
Total offences = 364
Drink drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 51 (1 in 6 / 17% of total)
Drug drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 19 (1 in 3 / 31% of total)
Total offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 70 (approx 1 in 5 / 19% of total)
Total drink drive offences = 165
Total drug drive offences = 31
Drink drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 34 (1 in 5 / 20% of total)
Drug drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 8 (1 in 4 / 25% of total)
Total drink drive offences = 138
Total drug drive offences = 30
Drink drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 17 (1 in 8 / 12% of total)
Drug drive offences M-F between 6am and 10pm = 11 (1 in 3 / 36% of total)
(Source: Greater Manchester Police)