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Entrepreneurs Panel

Brian Hay
David Pollock
Laura Tenison
Julie Meyer
Steve Purdham
Charlie Mullins
Tony Caldeira
Jennie Johnson
Jeremy Roberts
Michael Oliver
Debbie Pierce
Richard O'Sullivan

Booze in the workplace

Debbie Pierce

The former market stall worker founded the Bury Black Pudding Company on the web in May 2002 on a budget of £1,000. The firm completed its move to a major production facility in 2005 and now churns out more than 20 tonnes of black pudding a week to cater for demand over the internet, at its longstanding stall in Bury Market and from its distributors including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Iceland and Londis.

Question: 

I run a manufacturing company with a sales force that has traditionally done a lot of its business in the pub. We’ve currently got no policy in place on drinking during working hours but I’ve noticed a few of my factory workers have started nipping to the pub on lunch hours. Our processes aren’t particularly hazardous but obviously it could affect quality. I don’t really want to bring in a blanket ban on drinking for all employees because it could lose me sales but I do have to put a stop to those on the shop floor doing it. What’s the best way to handle this?

Answer: 

Any policy has to be a “blanket” policy because you have to treat everyone in the same way.

In this day and age of endless health & safety rules and manslaughter charges introduced to director’s liabilities, alcohol should not be part of the workplace at all. Alcohol affects people in different ways and is too unpredictable. Anyone who has had a drink should not be operating any piece of machinery in your factory at all.

If your sales people have to continue doing their sales in a pub, they can do it without having an alcoholic drink. If they’re driving to these meetings they shouldn’t be drinking anyway.

Break times, especially in manufacturing, are usually 15 or 20 minutes in the morning, half an hour for lunch then 15 or 20 minutes for an afternoon break. Cut the lunch hour down to half an hour, then shop floor staff haven’t got time to go out to the pub. It’s usually not an issue as they get home half an hour earlier at night.

You can also introduce random breathalyser testing. We do it in my factory and they’re not very expensive to buy – we purchased a middle-of-the-range one for around £65 and it does the job.

It is something that is obviously bothering you and it is putting you, other staff and your business at risk whilst you let it go on.

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