Alcohol and the Workplace


“Approximately 90 per cent of the Australian workforce consumes alcohol."1

Alcohol can play a large role in the culture of many workplaces, from social functions and events, to lunches and outings celebrating team and individual employee success, regular social gatherings between employees and as a means of managing work-related issues including stress.

Alcohol costs Australian workplaces an estimated $3.5 billion annually in lost productivity.1

Alcohol can also contribute to significant health, social and economic costs for workplaces1. There are ethical, safety, legal, and economic reasons to prevent and manage alcohol-related harm and issues2.

“Harmful alcohol use reduces workplace productivity, safety and work relations, and increases absenteeism and presenteeism.1

Employers and employees have a legal duty-of-care to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. The use of alcohol becomes an occupational health and safety issue if a person’s ability to exercise judgment, coordination, motor control and alertness is affected, leading to an increased risk of injury and illness. The alcohol-affected person may not be able to make an accurate assessment of their fitness for work. A person might be alcohol affected due to intoxication or due to hangover effects.

West Australian workplaces are well placed to respond to and create supportive and healthy workplace environments and safe workplace culture aimed at preventing and managing alcohol-related harm which benefits both the workplace and individual employees.

Whether workplace safety, productivity or employee health and wellbeing forms part of your workplace's rationale for responding to alcohol-related harm, a safe workplace culture around alcohol provides a number of benefits for workplaces1:

  • a safer working environment with decreased risk of accidents, injuries and fatalities;
  • compliance with occupational health and safety and related legislation;
  • increasing employee performance and productivity;
  • reducing absenteeism;
  • decreasing staff turnover and early retirement;
  • reduced operating, reputational and indirect costs;
  • improving work relations and staff morale; and
  • improving health and wellbeing of employees.

1 VicHealth. (2012). Reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace. An evidence review: summary report. Victorian Heath Promotion Foundation, Melbourne, Australia.

2 Pidd, K., Berry, J.G., Harrison, J.E., Roche, A.M., Driscoll, T.R. & Newson, R.S. (2006). Alcohol and work: Patterns of use, workplace culture and safety. AIHW cat no. INJCAT 82 (Injury Research and Statistics Series Number 26), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Adelaide.