Drinks company Pernod Ricards hit the press last week for the unusual allegations from employees that not only were they free to drink during the working day but were put under significant pressure  to do so , particularly at work related outings but also throughout the day. Press reports cited the court case brought by one employee against the company  in which accusations were made  of a culture of pressure to drink their aperitif products to increase sales to customers, to such an extent it resulted in the serious ill health of employees.

Despite official denials and reference to the company's  official zero tolerance approach, many more employees gave similar reports  contradicting the company's stance,  mentioning a rather different culture of enthusiastically encouraged  drinking.

This case highlights one particular aspect of  alcohol consumption at work and related events which is not usually specifically mentioned in alcohol at work policies - the pressure sometimes  exerted  on employees to drink alcohol when they don't wish to  and to drink excessively at social  events - Christmas  party  reminiscences?  

Such pressure to conform can cause significant stress (and unwilling intoxication if felt impossible to resist)  because of fear of disapproval at work;  losing work opportunities/promotion  or even the job. It may also be deeply offensive to those whose religion proscribes consumption of alcohol.

  Staff policies in relation to alcohol at work  should be reviewed to  include: 

  • an outline of the problem of peer pressure to drink alcohol and where it can occur 
  • a clear statement that  pressure exerted on colleagues to drink alcohol  where clearly unwanted, or to excess, is not permitted and  could be offensive.
  • a warning that this could amount  to misconduct or gross misconduct and could result in disciplinary proceedings .
  •  a  reporting system ( confidential  possibly) to named individuals for those affected by such pressure.
  • an explanation of  the meaningful support which will be offered to those experiencing  such pressure
  • reference to training for managers  and  selected employees to deal with such situations at work events or during working hours 
  • if not done so,  start to develop an all encompassing  wellbeing at work policy which can include  this aspect