The Drinks Are On Us!

1a Better Drinking picture copyMost companies at this time of the year throw a party. It’s a great opportunity for the senior management to show their appreciation for their staff, whether it’s drinks and nibbles in the office, dinner in a posh restaurant or an outing to the night club. A couple of glasses of wine is fairly normal as part of the festivities, but, what happens if you employ someone who is under 18?

I was asked this question by a client earlier this week. In this particular case the answer was quite straightforward, as the party will be on the company premises and the drinks will be Bucks Fizz. But care really has to be taken to ensure you, as an employer, don’t break the law.

Here are the basic rules:

It is against the law:

  • For an under 18 year old to buy, or try to buy alcohol
  • For someone to sell alcohol to someone under 18
  • For an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for someone under 18
  • For an 18 year old to drink alcohol on licenced premises (e.g. pub or restaurant)

If someone is 16 or 17 and they are accompanied by an adult they can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal. If they are on private premises then it is not against the law to drink, however, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, parents or guardians must be informed of any outcomes from risk assessments and for ANY staff at a works ‘do’, the employer still has a responsibility for their welfare.

To ensure that you don’t break the law with your under 18s:

  • Get written consent that their parents or guardians are happy for them to have a drink;
  • Make sure that there is a responsible adult monitoring the situation;
  • Ensure that ALL staff can get home safely with taxis, shared lifts by someone who hasn’t been drinking, public transport, or if necessary make particular arrangements for the under 18s.
  • Drinks on your premises make it easier to manage and monitor alcohol intake.
  • Drinks at a restaurant or corporate function are fine as long as it’s in moderation (wine, beer or cider) and with a meal, and the young person doesn’t buy the drinks.
  • Alcoholic drinks at the pub, night club or casino are absolutely off-limits unless it’s with a meal, so it’s worth reminding staff that they will be breaking the law if they buy the young person an alcoholic drink.

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