The responsibility of workers to give their focus to their work during work time is a practical and a safety requirement that makes the prohibition of drinking at work a standard one. A recent case has clarified that this ‘no drinking at work’ direction extends to workers drinking while working from home.
This case hinges around an incident where a teacher who was working from home preparing lessons during a COVID lockdown in 2021. While on an online meeting with his direct manager the teacher picked up a cask of wine and drank directly from it.
As a result of the incident an investigation was launched and a finding of misconduct resulted in a reduction in his pay grade for 12 months.
Arguing against the findings the teacher first claimed that his home is not a workplace and that the allegation was false and later argued that he thought the meeting had finished when he had a drink.
In issuing the findings dismissing the case and upholding the pay cut Fair Work Deputy President Dean noted that “Whether his home is or is not a workplace does not change the fact that [he] consumed alcohol whilst working and during his normal hours of duty” and that “It is irrelevant that [the teacher] was not responsible for the supervision of students – the policy is clear that no alcohol is to be consumed during hours of duty regardless of any supervision obligations”.
Learnings for all businesses
“While there has been a long running argument over where the workplace starts and finishes in a work from home scenario this case has stated clearly several key points”, explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
“This very clear finding offers a roadmap to all businesses in this area highlighting that they need to have policies that articulate when the direction against drug and alcohol consumption and impairment applies. This should explicitly stipulate while doing work tasks within usual or directed work hours at any place the employee is directed to work”, continues Elisha.
“By including these very clear directions in a policy the business not only delivers clarity to the employee as to the expectations of the business, it also ensures the business can illustrate that understanding in the courts when there is a dispute”, concluded Elisha.
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Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)