Expert advice

Legal advice: Is it okay to have a drink with colleagues at the end of a shift during the Christmas period?

Before having an alcoholic drink at work, check employer policies and make sure your professional responsibility is not impaired, says legal expert Marc Cornock. 

Before having an alcoholic drink at work, check employer policies and make sure your professional responsibility is not impaired, says legal expert Marc Cornock 


Be aware of your professional, employee and legal responsibilities when having
a drink at the end of your shift. Picture: iStock

There is no Nursing and Midwifery Council rule that states you cannot have a drink at work, but this would be covered by your overall responsibility to maintain a professional standard and be fit and competent to practise safely. 

By ‘end of shift’, do you mean the very end of your shift, when you have officially left work? And by ‘colleagues’ do you mean those whose shift is ending at the same time?

You and your colleagues need to consider whether having an alcoholic drink at the end of your shift falls short of maintaining your professional responsibility.

Employer policy

You also need to consider your employer’s policy on drinking alcohol while at work. Your employer has a duty of care to patients, but also to you and your colleagues with regard to care and safety. You therefore need to consult your employer’s policy. If it prohibits the drinking of alcohol on the premises and you ignore this, you could face disciplinary action.

Finally, you need to consider whether having a drink at the end of the shift could mean you are in breach of the law. For example, if you are intending to drive home, the drink you have at the end of your shift may mean that you have committed a criminal act when you take control of your car.

All things considered, the responsibility for deciding whether to have a drink is entirely yours. But in the wrong circumstances, you could be facing professional, disciplinary or criminal action.


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University
 

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