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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Should lunchtime drinking be banned?
A third of British firms are considering introducing random drink and drug tests at work, according to a new report.

The survey for Personnel Today magazine and charities Alcohol Concern and DrugScope, says the measures are being considered because problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace - including accidents, absenteeism and poor performance - are on the increase.

Three out of four companies said alcohol abuse by workers had led them to miss time at work and nearly three-quarters of firms questioned said they would like to ban drinking at lunchtime.

Does lunchtime drinking affect your work? Should it be banned? Is this encroaching on your private life?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I would quite like to see them try just to witness the backlash!

Neil Armstrong, UK
What a joke! I would quite like to see them try just to witness the backlash! No company has the right to infringe on our personal choices and preferences - let alone our personal time, which the lunch hour is. How far would this get in the European Courts? (I can't really see the French agreeing.) Anyway, I don't remember anywhere in my contract it saying that I agree to be controlled, dictated to and treated like a five-year-old.
Neil Armstrong, UK

Lunch hour? What's that?
Clare, UK

How do you prevent working staff entering a bar at lunchtime without excluding tourists, retirees and so forth? Surely existing employment contracts have the scope to discipline and/or dismiss those found wanting in the workplace without resorting to more "nanny state" legislation?
Tom Stewart, Philippines

Lunchtime drinking can be used to enhance team spirit

Colin, UK
Lunchtime drinking can be used to enhance team spirit. Of course it should be moderated, but it should be up to individual managers to ensure that the proper balance between work and "team building" is maintained.
Colin, UK

Oh yes! Please, please, please all you Big Companies start banning lunchtime drinking! It's tough recruiting IT staff at the moment and "Management-Sanctioned Friday Lunchtime Pub Outing" could so easily nestle with "Share Options" and "Pension Scheme" on job ads...
Chris, UK

Businesses should not begin to believe that they have any control over their employees' lunchtimes. There is nothing wrong with somebody having a quick drink and sandwich in a local pub. However, if an employee behaves badly or his work suffers because of drinking at lunchtime, the employee's line manager should employ normal procedures for dealing with this problem ie take the employee aside for a 1-to-1 to discuss the problem and if necessary refer the employee to an occupational health department. If businesses are allowed to exercise control over employees' lunchtimes, this would be the thin end of a very big wedge.
Janet Holben, UK

Lunchtime drinking is an option which should be accompanied by a lower rate of pay

Tobias Malt, Senegal
Lunchtime drinking is an option which should be accompanied by a lower rate of pay. The question "Do you drink at lunchtimes?" should be part of any sensible job interview.
Tobias Malt, Senegal

What a sad country Britain is becoming. I have worked in Germany for the last two and a half years (France before that). While there are a lot of things I don't like about the country, they have a very open and relaxed attitude to drink and even have wine or beer served in the canteen (for those who choose to have a glass with their food). At the end of each month the office has a small party to talk about the last month's problems and this is always done with a glass or two of beer. Long live freedom of choice in a world where this is becoming increasingly rare.
Craig Jones, Germany

Most drinking I have witnessed in my UK-based employment has been done at the management level

Paul, UK
My US-owned company bans drink and drugs, which bothers me not one jot. It is detailed in my contract and I know where I stand. Most drinking I have witnessed in my UK-based employment has been done at the management level, in the guise of corporate entertainment. If the authoritarian, dictatorial UK personnel departments want to stop the occasional Friday afternoon bar lunch, then alcohol should be banned corporate wide.

I worked in Holland. Once a month the company, common practice in Holland, had a free happy hour. In the last hour of the working day all staff were invited to drink as much as they liked in the staff canteen. The superb public transport made it possible for all to enjoy, but that's another debate!
Paul, UK

I would be very interested to see the opinion of the Court of Human Rights on this subject. Just as the police should not be allowed to conduct random breath and drugs tests, neither should employers. Only if an employer can show reasonable cause, capable of being upheld in a court of law, should they be able to conduct such tests.
Mark Mitchell, Canada

Those who fall prey to its ruin should avoid drinking at lunchtime

Tim Greening, Hong Kong
Having spent my entire working life overseas, I became a lunchtime drinker as it was the custom. However I nearly lost one job because of it. I would say that those who fall prey to its ruin should avoid drinking at lunchtime. Those who monitor such activity in the workplace should talk through any problem arising and get help for the person concerned. No it should not be stopped - we are all responsible and should realise the potential damage it does to ourselves as well as all those around us.
Tim Greening, Hong Kong

I have no problem with drink and drugs testing provided that those at the highest levels of the organisation also participate. How likely is that to happen?
James Chapman, UK

For shift workers (and I'm assuming they exist in the UK), noon is 'evening'. Why should they be penalised by not being allowed to drink in their off-time just because some day workers can't control themselves? It is up to the employer and the employee to control noontime drinking, not the Government.
Charlene, Canada

Save our alcohol!

Joseph, American in UK
No! Lunchtime drink is the biggest fringe benefit the UK has to offer. If it weren't for that I never would have left the US to come work in this country. Save our alcohol!
Joseph, American in UK

I am an ex-pat and live in Vancouver BC. Here, as in California, there are strict anti-smoking laws and alcohol consumption is also generally frowned upon compared to the tolerance in Britain and on the continent. I consistently find myself at odds with my colleagues here in Vancouver (each province has different acceptable norms) with regard to drinking. However, the acceptability of drinking in Britain does predispose those who are susceptible to alcoholism to start habits which can ruin their life, work-life as well as other areas of living. I am not an abstainer - but I should be.
Fiona Allen, Canada

I find the assertion that employers can impose random tests disturbing. It further erodes individual freedom and recasts the work relationship in a dark mould.
Troy Stanton, New Zealand

It is clear that lunchtime drinking damages work performance, alcohol causes a decrease in efficiency giving the employer less value for money. As an employer I seek to increase the 'value' that I can get from my employees, preventing drinking at lunchtime is a step I am considering taking to achieve this. I have also been looking at some other plans such as random health test (to make sure my staff are not eating junk food), Sleep Tests (my employers should be getting at least 7 hour a night) - after all hard working staff are happy staff!
Paul Atfield, UK

Its not much fun working daily with someone who is aggressive at 2.00pm and semi-comatose by 4.00 - and he is the boss!
George, UK

I think the amount of drinking time that is taken up by work is shocking.
We are turning into a nation of workaholics, causing serious drinking performance problems
Timothy Man, UK

You either choose to be at your desk on time (and ready for work) or you choose to find yourself another job

James Penlington, UK
At all levels of work it is an individual's responsibility to ensure that they are capable of doing the job that they are paid to do. This includes drinking the night before work, getting enough sleep, arriving on time, preparation, training, personal health etc. If an employer thinks that an individual is not capable of successfully doing they're job they should be disciplined or fired it is not the responsibility of the employer to set the guidelines. Sleep patterns, diet, health care etc. "You either choose to be at your desk on time (and ready for work) or you choose to find yourself another job."
James Penlington, UK

In my youth, colleagues and myself made the mistake of enjoying our pub food with beer. Not only did we feel the sleepy effect but we also stunk of beer and cigarette smoke. I quiet agree these habits have no longer a place in the office life, but I do feel a good hours lunch break in a pub or restaurant can be a well appreciated break once in a week or two.
Gary Waite, United Kingdom

Why should a harmless activity that many of us enjoy, be banned because a small minority of people aren't able to control themselves. A quick pint at lunchtime provides a great opportunity for colleagues to relax together and a break from the working day. I currently work in the USA, lunchtime drinking is a very puritan 'no no'. What harm does it do and isn't there a benefit of employees communicating to each other?
Charles, USA

Lunchtime drinking is part and parcel of business in many companies, especially where clients are being wined and dined in an effort to keep them sweet.
Surely there's enough meddling in people's lives as it is nowadays. Let people live their lives as they wish.
Phil, UK

I really think it should be down to the individual to utilise their common sense in this matter

Andy, UK
I drink regularly at lunchtime. Almost every day. I genuinely find I work better after a pint or two (I'm a computer programmer), it enables me to relax and thus think more clearly at a more measured pace, which of course is vital in IT.
However, I used to work in engineering, where even though drinking at lunchtime is also a popular pastime, it was and is considered a major risk, especially when you have hold your hands under a 100 ton power press in the afternoon. I know many people who've lost fingers and even their lives operating machinery after drinking.
I really think it should be down to the individual to utilise their common sense in this matter.
Andy, UK

It is up to an individual, not his employer, to govern his conduct. All that employers should do is judge job performance. If drinking and drugs impair job performance then there is a problem; if not, a worker's personal habits are none of his employer's business.
Matt, US

How far can a company encroach upon it's employees right to choose what he or she does outside of work. What if a person injures themselves playing sport of a lunchtime or after work hours and subsequently is absent from work? Will this now become a disciplinary offence, as it is through your own actions that you are absent?
Kevin, UK

Okay I'm confused, when did the UK adopt a communist view and decide what grown adults can and cant do in their lunch hour? its not works hour, its yours
Dan James, UK

'If you want me to behave like an adult, you're going to have to treat me like one'

Dave, UK
This reminds me of school days when teachers used to say, 'If you want me to treat you like an adult, you must behave like one', to which I would always reply, 'If you want me to behave like an adult, you're going to have to treat me like one'.
If I go for a drink at lunch time (which is very rare), then that's my decision. Surely there's nothing more to it than that? We're talking about a wider problem here of alcohol misuse - something which is particularly prevalent in the UK and I believe as a direct result of licencing hours in the first place. Treat me like a child and I'll gladly behave like one...
Dave, UK

When company directors, chairmen etc., stop drinking under the guise of 'entertaining' clients, then so will I. As usual, don't do as I do, do as I say.
Paul B, United Kingdom

In response to M P Marshall, if every worker used their common sense, and exercised self-control then employers wouldn't have to think about the issue. Tim Collins is right when he argues that this should be a matter for personal discipline. But, how should companies treat staff who behave like children? We really seem to blurred the distinction between work and recreation - a time and place for each?
S E Adamson, UK

Why not? We're here to work, not fall asleep for the afternoon. Of course this ban will have to be across the board not just at the "workers" level.
Phil Miller, UK

If a ban were imposed company wide, our French office would resign en masse

How much control should your employers have over you?
M.P.Marshall, UK

Surely it's all about common sense - I know if I have a glass of wine at lunch time I'm tired in the afternoon so if I've got heaps of work on, I don't. If we've just finished a big project, that generally means long hours, short lunches etc. I think it's perfectly acceptable. Same case if it's your birthday, obviously rolling into the office after consuming 2 bottles of wine in an hour is possibly pushing it! Moderation and all that.
Helen, UK

I see lunchtime drinking as far less of a problem than the days and hours lost to "morning after" hangovers. A glass of wine or beer on a sunny Friday lunchtime is hardly a crime, and I think a ban would be treated with contempt in the UK. Also worth considering, if a ban were imposed company wide, our French office would resign en masse.

The same approach as driving should be used for lunchtime drinking. Employees who have consumed more than 4 units of alcohol should be disciplined. If you are allowed to drive after this amount then I'm sure you can be expected to perform your duties at work competently.
Owen, UK

Personally I almost never drink at lunchtime, because if I did, I would be half asleep all afternoon! This has to be a matter for personal discipline though - if companies treat their staff like children, they will get a very poor response
Tim Collins, UK

See also:

07 Aug 01 | Business
Firms consider drink and drugs tests
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