Alcohol at work social events – some things to be aware of

Nov 17, 2014 | Good Management

Many employers organise social events for staff, particularly around Christmas, and inevitably alcohol is involved, sometimes provided by the employer and sometimes available for purchase by employees. Here are some things you should think about before your social event to minimise the risk of alcohol-related problems and deal effectively with them if they do arise.


Although technically staff may not be at work as such, it is a good idea to nominate specific people to keep an eye on things during events. They should stay sober and also be advised how they should handle any drunk or disorderly employees.

Free bar?

It’s great to be generous to employees, and you want them to enjoy themselves, but a free bar throughout your event is likely to encourage excessive drinking. Think about providing vouchers for one or two free drinks instead.

What if people don’t drink?

Not everyone will drink alcohol at your event. Some people may be driving home, and some may not for religious or other reasons. Even if most are, you need to make sure there is a plentiful supply of a variety of non-alcoholic beverages also, including water and soft drinks. You should also ensure that those who do not wish to drink alcohol for whatever reason have that decision respected and do not feel bullied into doing so or mocked for not joining in.

Getting home

It’s not a case that once they’ve left the event they are not your responsibility. You have a duty of care to your staff and as such must consider how people will get home. You could consider providing transport if lots of people are likely to be heading in the same direction, to a station or similar, but in any case should remind people before the event that drinking and driving are not acceptable and they should plan their home journey in advance. You could also ensure managers have numbers of local cab firms, and as a matter of common sense, if managers notice someone clearly under the influence of alcohol getting ready to leave the party, they should take the time to ensure that person gets safely into a cab or has an alternative safe route planned.


Alcohol does funny things to people, and inhibitions are lowered, meaning there is a higher incidence of unacceptable behaviour at events where alcohol is available. This might mean violence, harassment or other unacceptable conduct. Although the event may not be on work premises it absolutely can be considered a disciplinary offence and should be dealt with accordingly. It is also sensible to remind staff prior to the event that such conduct will not be tolerated and will be considered a disciplinary issue.

If you have any further queries and need some advice, do get in touch.