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Create an effective alcohol policy

An alcohol policy tells your people what is and isn’t okay around alcohol and the workplace.

This section provides some practical advice and ideas about things you might consider including in your workplace’s alcohol policy. Your policy has to work for your organisation, so adapt the information below to suit your workplace.

Why have a policy?

A policy puts in writing the rules and expectations around alcohol. It also sets out planned actions to prevent or reduce the impact of alcohol on your workplace and your people.

Complemented by a range of strategies, a workplace alcohol policy contributes to:

  • improved health outcomes and workplace safety for employees
  • a clear understanding of the limits on drinking in relation to work
  • consistency and efficiency in how a workplace responds to issues or incidents
  • showing a clear commitment to being a supportive and healthy workplace
  • cost savings from reducing the impact of alcohol in the workplace and managing any alcohol-related issues better.

Having a policy alone isn’t enough. To be effective it must be backed up by communication, induction and education activity, counselling and treatment support options.

Some organisations have a separate alcohol policy. Others include alcohol in their wider organisational policies and procedures (eg, around catering for work events or using vehicles).

Core content

An alcohol policy sets out an organisation’s position on alcohol and how it achieves that.

An effective workplace alcohol policy should clearly state: 

  • whether the work site will be alcohol-free (see below for help when considering an alcohol-free policy)
  • when it’s appropriate to consume alcohol – if at all
  • acceptable standards of work performance and acceptable blood alcohol levels (if any).

The policy should also specify who does what, such as who’s responsible for:

  • monitoring work performance, approaching an alcohol-influenced employee, and what they do, such as:
    • strategies for dealing with alcohol-related issues, including:
      • procedures for approaching and dealing with the employee
      • information on treatment and other support services
  • imposing any disciplinary measures
  • keeping records of disciplinary measures
  • evaluating the policy and associated treatment/support strategies.

How to make your policy effective 

There are a number of things that will ensure any policy is effective – whether it’s about alcohol or any other workplace matter. 

  1. It’s developed through consultation – Policy development involves everyone, including management, supervisors, occupational health and safety personnel, employees and unions.
  2. Fully supported at all levels of management – Support from senior managers gives it credibility, and managers and supervisors play an essential role in delivering the policy.
  3. It's universally applied – The policy should apply all employees, regardless of seniority. (That can be tricky in businesses with a mix of low and high-risk work areas.)
  4. Tailored to your organisation – The policy specifically fits your workplace’s needs and operating conditions, and is compatible with your organisation’s culture and purpose.
  5. It’s written in clear, precise terms – The policy must cover all aspects of alcohol consumption and management at your workplace. For example, if alcohol is permitted at social functions, it should state when it’s allowed and set out how it’s served and consumed responsibly, and any consequences if the policy is breached.
  6. It must be communicated to all employees – Your employees must know about and support the policy, and understand what happens if they breach its terms.
  7. It’s reviewed and evaluated – This will determine if the policy’s aims are being achieved, and to identify strengths, weaknesses and any possible improvements.

See examples of how organisations have created their alcohol policies.  

Alcohol-free?

Part of introducing an alcohol policy is considering whether your organisation should be alcohol-free. If it’s not, when is drinking alcohol appropriate? And should a no-alcohol rule apply to all employees, or can some drink and others not? (An alcohol-free policy works best when it’s the same rule for all employees.)

The questions below might help you decide. Answer "yes", "no" or "depends" and use your answers to inform your decisions.

Is drinking alcohol in the workplace okay:

  • during working hours?
  • during lunch and other breaks?
  • on special occasions?
  • when entertaining clients?
  • after work? (Friday night drinks, etc).

Examples of workplace alcohol policies

These alcohol policy examples – or parts of them – may help you create your own. However, whatever you create must be appropriate for your workplace.

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