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Employer's legal responsibilities in relation to alcohol

New Zealand employers must protect employees and others from hazards at work, including the effects of alcohol.

Taking steps to prevent and minimise alcohol harm is part of an employer’s responsibility to create a healthy workplace that protects employees’ health, safety and wellbeing.

It’s the ethical thing to do – it’s good business practice – but it’s also the law in terms of health and safety, and host responsibility.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)

HSWA says an employer must take all “reasonably practicable steps” to eliminate any risks in a workplace that could cause harm to an employee or anyone else (such as members of the public or customers).

Risky behaviour that could harm someone is included, such as where alcohol has affected a person's behaviour and they have become a hazard to themselves or others.

"Reasonably practicable steps" means doing what can be done in the circumstances, taking into account:

  • the severity of any injury or harm to health that may occur

  • the degree of risk, or likelihood of the risk happening, and someone being harmed

  • how much is already known about the hazard and the ways of eliminating or controlling its risks

  • the availability, effectiveness and cost of the possible controls.

Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012

This law is about ensuring the safe and responsible sale, supply and consumption of alcohol. It’s also aimed at minimising harm caused by alcohol's excessive or inappropriate use.

Supply of alcohol to under 18s

One of the key areas of the Act that may impact on employers is the supply of alcohol to people aged under 18.

It is illegal to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 unless:

  • the person supplying the alcohol is the parent or legal guardian and the alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner, or

  • the person supplying alcohol has the clear consent of the young person’s parent or legal guardian and the alcohol is supplied responsibly.

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