One of the country's highest-profile sporting bodies is among dozens of corporates to put staff through an alcohol awareness programme.

Alcohol consumption at staff functions is among workplace activities under renewed focus as employers come to grips with the new Health and Safety at Work Act, which passed into law last month.

Under the act employers' responsibilities to manage risks at work have increased, along with penalties for failing to do so. Individuals in control of a business can be fined up to $600,000 and sentenced to five years' jail for serious breaches, up from a $500,000 fine and two years' jail under the old law. The maximum fine for a corporation is now $3 million.

Large companies contacted by the Herald said they had not made any changes to work functions, such as work drinks or team building exercises, since the new law had come in. Some indicated it was too early to know what impact the change would have.


However, it appears some businesses have sought education for staff through Lion's Alcohol & Me alcohol awareness programme, which started as an internal training tool for Lion staff in 2013 but was now being offered to other businesses.

The programme's spokeswoman Jude Walter said they had shared the programme with 40 businesses in the past year and run a three-hour in-house session for Z Energy, Frucor and New Zealand Rugby.

A further 10 companies, including engineering, construction, utility and banking companies, had expressed interest in attending the next session in Auckland on July 6.

New Zealand Rugby chief financial officer Jannine Mountford said the association had worked with Lion at an early stage to develop the Alcohol & Me education module for use by New Zealand Rugby staff.

The majority of staff took part in a pilot course, and in recent months other staff had also done the online modules. The association confirmed senior managers took part in the initial course, including chief executive Steve Tew.

"New Zealand Rugby takes its alcohol responsibilities seriously. As well as ensuring we have a policy on the responsible use of alcohol in place at staff and other events we host, we're also committed to educating all staff on alcohol and its consumption. This is ultimately about promoting good health and safe work practices."

Professional rugby players employed through New Zealand Rugby took part in a separate alcohol awareness programme, she said.

Walter said the businesses were working with the Alcohol & Me programme as part of their wider employee wellbeing programmes, but the new health and safety laws meant some were also seeing the value of the programme in helping them meet their obligations.

"It is still early days with the legislation and many businesses are still working out what their biggest risks and therefore their greatest training needs are."

The programme is available free online at

How to stay safe around liquor at work functions


• Ensure alcohol consumption is monitored and non-alcoholic options and food are available.

• Ensure employees have access to a safe way to get home, such as taxis.

• Where the staff function is being hosted or organised by another company, the employer should discuss with that company how they will each ensure the health and safety of the people in attendance.


• Exercise moderation and take advantage of the food provided by the employer.

• Follow employer's instructions and any policies employer might have, including around safe ways to get home.

• Look out for colleagues - tell them when it might be time to call it a night and make sure they get in a taxi.

Source: Dundas St Employment Lawyers' senior associate David Traylor