The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an abrupt shift to people working from home out of health concerns.

But with the comfort of working from your home comes a number of responsibilities one never had to contend with while working from the company office.

For instance, does it now mean that employees can partake of alcohol and drugs while on the clock?

Aadil Patel, the national head of employment law practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, a Sandton-based law firm, said that even if workers are not physically working from the office, labour laws and company policies are still in effect with regard to alcohol.


The Occupational Health and Safety Act, subject to provisions of sub-regulation (3), stipulates that no person at a workplace shall be under the influence of or have in his or her possession or partake of or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs.

Simply put, this means that if an employer or manager suspects you are partaking of intoxicants during work hours, you will be subject to disciplinary procedures.

“Management is responsible for putting policies in place, not just for consumption on the premises; policies can extend to behaviour off company premises, during working hours in the event that it impacts the employee’s ability to do their job.

“Policies should not be limited to the consumption of alcohol, and should include any substance that prevents one from doing their duties, such as cannabis, for example,” said Patel in a statement on Thursday.

Patel said that being drunk at work is regarded as misconduct, which could lead to an employee’s dismissal. However, he explained that each case should also be treated on its own merit.


“Alcoholism is an illness, therefore the distinction must be made between incapacity as a result of alcoholism or simple misconduct. If an employer suspects that a worker may have a dependency problem, the employer is under obligation to assist the worker to access treatment.

“You may be tempted to reward yourself in between Zoom meetings while working from home, but think twice before reaching for a glass while you are still on the clock.

“And if you find yourself stress-drinking, seek help. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, which itself has brought on additional mental health triggers,” Patel explained.