Dealing With Employees Who Work While Hungover

When you’re an employer, it is more than likely that you have employees who drink alcohol to a certain extent. Some may just be social drinkers, while others may drink more heavily. As long as they do their drinking when they’re off-duty, there isn’t much you can do about it.

However, if they show up for work with a hangover after drinking the night before, it immediately becomes your business. After all, employees who work while hungover or intoxicated could pose a risk to the health and safety of the workplace, among other things.

So how should employers, managers and supervisors deal with an employee who shows up for work with a hangover?

Determine if the employee indeed has a hangover

Before you can actually do anything to deal with an employee with a hangover, you might want to make sure first if he or she is actually hungover from the night before. Signs that someone is suffering from a hangover include:

  • Trembling/shakiness
  • Sluggishness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Slurred speech
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Nausea
  • Trace smells of alcohol on skin and breath
  • Clamminess
  • Headaches

Don’t scold the employee

Instruct your managers and/or supervisors to be on the lookout for employees who are showing signs of being hungover.

Explain to them that if they suspect an employee to be hungover, they should confront that employee, but in a polite and casual manner. They should avoid scolding or embarrassing the employee. Instead, ask the employee straight up if he or she has a hangover.

If the employee admits to being hungover, you can make a decision to send them home for the day. After all, the ill effects of a hangover can make an employee unproductive. In cases where the hungover employee is working a safety-sensitive task, it can make them a risk to everyone in the workplace. By sending a hungover worker home, untoward incidents can be avoided.

Keep a written record of each incident

Documenting the incident is also important if the employee admits to being hungover. That written record must be kept for future reference.

The problem, after all, could persist. The employee might show up with a hangover on a regular basis. Written records of such incidents could become critical, especially when the situation becomes worse and disciplinary action is already called for.

Do you have a workplace alcohol policy?

In most cases, employees with hangovers are often just sent home. However, when coming to work with a hangover becomes a regular occurrence, then there is a much bigger alcohol problem involved here.

Dealing with workers who show up for work hungover on a regular basis becomes a lot easier if there is a clear alcohol policy in place. If you don’t have an alcohol policy yet, create one. Make sure the policy contains details on what constitutes a violation, and clearly explain its consequences. If you want to put in a section that deals with hangover-related issues at work, it is within your right to do so. This is most especially appropriate for companies that belong to higher-risk industries such as construction and mining.

To make sure the policy is known to everyone, put in place a drug safety training program that will educate employees about it through meetings and/or seminars. By establishing a clear and fair alcohol policy that everyone is educated about, you have a legal basis and protection when dealing with those who violate its rules.

Implement the alcohol policy strictly

Once a workplace alcohol policy is in place, it would be in everyone’s best interest to strictly implement it. That means anyone who violates it is bound to be faces with certain consequences.

More often than not, first-time offenders are just issued a warning. However, if the same employee continues to violate the workplace alcohol policy again and again, the repercussions could be more severe, like suspension or outright dismissal. As long as the employee is aware of the policy and that it specifies coming to work hungover as a violation, an employer has every right to mete a suspension or termination, depending on the gravity of the offense.

Provide employee assistance

Then again, some employers opt to be more lenient in cases like this. If they have an employee assistance program in place, they sign the employee concerned up for it in the hopes that they will make a complete turnaround and continue to be an asset to their business. After all, employee assistance programs are meant to help employees who are facing serious problems, substance abuse among them.

For some, the issue of employees showing up for work with a hangover may be somewhat of a grey area. However, for employers who are really concerned about the health and safety of their personnel, hangovers need to be taken more seriously. Hangovers may seem harmless at first, but they may eventually impact one’s productivity, and most importantly, workplace safety.

Discover more

Safework Health can help you develop a comprehensive alcohol-safe workplace program for your business. Contact us today for a confidential discussion.

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