It's that magical time of year when the woolly hats come out, and your office is crammed full of mince pies and tins of chocolate. Your organisation has worked really hard all year long, so to thank them, employees are being treated to a festive office party.
Is your organisation one of those businesses whose office Christmas parties are legendary? Maybe it's the sort of event that everyone talks about for months, or even years after. If it is, chances are you are a big part of the planning and you know that it doesn't happen without a lot of hard work. I bet you started thinking about this year's party even before you'd cleaned up the tinsel from the last one. And the reward for your organisation's generosity? A happy workforce who are motivated to work. It's a win-win.
Great organisations take care of their employees, especially at Christmas. You want everyone to enjoy themselves and let their hair down a bit. So the checklist for your party probably includes great food and plenty of booze. You're not alone, 70% of HR professionals think it's ok to provide alcohol at a festive party.
If you are supplying alcohol, you'll also know that you have a duty of care to make sure your employees stay safe, which includes reminding them of your organisation's Health and Safety and Alcohol in the Workplace policies. You may have also gone the extra mile and organised taxis or a minibus to get everyone home, or at the very least, encouraged employees to nominate a driver who will stay sober and take them to their doorstep. You don't have to do this, but you do because you care.
But let me ask you something. While planning the legendary Christmas party, do you ever think about the morning after?
As you'll know, office parties aren't cheap, which is why most happen on a Wednesday or Thursday evening, which means some employees might be a bit worse for wear the next day. By 9am, they'll have performed their usual hangover cure routine and will probably be discussing who did what the night before (over multiple cups of black coffee). Most of them will appear relatively sober.
But, and it's a big but...
Sleep, black coffee, water, breakfast, and showers might make someone feel better the morning after a boozy party, but they won't make any difference to how intoxicated they are. The only thing that sobers you up is your liver processing alcohol out of your system, and that takes time. Approximately one hour for every unit of alcohol consumed.
So, if an employee arrives at your party at 7pm and drinks three pints of beer, three glasses of wine, and two shots of vodka across the evening, it'll take until at least 11am the next day for them to be sober again - long after they've arrived at their desk for another day's work.
Which leads to my next question. How do your employees get into work the morning after the office party? If they're driving, there is a chance they're over the limit. You might be surprised to know that:
• one in three motorists has driven the morning after while over the limit
• 17% of drink-drive incidents happen the morning after a night of drinking
• in 2011, more people failed breath tests between the hours of 6am and 11am than during the hours before or after midnight
Anyone convicted of a drink-drive offence can receive:
• up to six months in prison
• up to a £5,000 fine
• at least a 12-month driving ban
On top of that, research has found that, overall, a drink-driving conviction will cost the average person an astonishing £50,800.
The consequences of drink-driving could be even worse. On average 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year in drink-drive collisions. And you don't have to be over the limit to be at risk.
The police know that people like to drink a bit more at Christmas, so they're even more diligent at this time of year, and many police forces launch Christmas campaigns to crackdown on drink-driving over the festive period.
Find out what happens when you're pulled over on suspicion of drink-driving.
Imagine an employee receiving a drink-drive conviction because they're still over the limit when driving to work the morning after your party. Where does your organisation's duty of care stop? Is it when someone gets in a taxi at the end of the night? Or, as a responsible organisation, do you want to make sure you don't fall at this last, often unrecognised, hurdle? If so, you need to make sure your employees are aware of the dangers of driving to work the morning after a night of drinking.
Not only will this protect your employees, but it will protect your organisation too. Which brings me to my final question: are your employees required to drive as part of their job? If they are, chances are, you won't be able to continue to employ them if they have a drink-drive conviction. Even if your organisation doesn't require your employees to drive, you could still be affected, as research has found that a quarter of a million people rely on their car to get to work.
Think about the time and investment it would take for your organisation to deal with an employee with a drink-drive conviction. Recruitment isn't cheap. And all because an employee drove to work the morning after drinking alcohol at your legendary party.
Before you run to cancel the party, or at least close the bar, here are three simple things you can do to keep your employees safe and protect the integrity of your organisation:
1. Send all your employees a 'happy healthy Christmas' message template that points out the risks of drink-driving the morning after. Find out how to get hold of one on our website.
2. Encourage everyone who is going to the party to check whether they still have alcohol in their system before setting out to work the morning after.
3. Make it easy for them because you're a responsible organisation and care about your employees. Single use morning-after breathalysers are a useful present for your employees.
That should make sure that your office party remains legendary for all the right reasons.
This blog was originally featured on the Swanswell website.