Employers losing 15 million working days to alcohol

Almost
15 million working days a year are lost due to alcohol.

A
new TUC report, A potent cocktail, says people are drinking more now than ever
before, but few employers have alcohol policies in place to tackle any problems
arising from their employees’ drinking habits.

The
report is the TUC’s response to a wide-ranging trawl for ideas on how to tackle
the issue of alcohol in the workplace, currently being undertaken by the
Cabinet Office and the Department of Health.

The
TUC notes that a recent Alcohol Concern survey shows that 60 per cent of
employers experience problems as a result of staff boozing. A separate CIPD
survey found that a large number of employers (43 per cent) didn’t have alcohol
policies and most (84 per cent) didn’t run health awareness programmes for
their staff.

The
report notes that alcohol is a major factor behind absences from work, with up
to 14.8 million working days lost as a result of drinking every year. It is
also estimated that long-term sickness, unemployment and premature death due to
alcohol abuse costs the UK economy £2.3bn a year.

TUC
general secretary elect Brendan Barber said: "Drink is definitely a
workplace issue. People who like the odd drink or two may think their drinking
is under control, but their colleagues who have to cover for their ‘duvet days’
and long lunches might think otherwise. Drinkers are also risking serious
damage to their health.

"It’s
in everyone’s interest that we tackle the UK’s growing drink problem. The TUC
would like to see the Government, unions and employers all coming together to
deal with the issue in a sensitive and understanding way."

A
potent cocktail suggests a number of ways that the Government, employers and
unions might tackle the drink/work issue:


The Government should fund research looking at the extent of the misuse of
alcohol by individuals at work, its effect on the workplace and its cost to the
nation. The Government could also offer financial incentives to those employers
currently offering counselling and other types of employee assistance
programmes to encourage more workers to come forward and admit their alcohol
problems.


Employers who don’t have alcohol policies should draw them up in consultation
with unions in the workplace. Policies should cover such topics as tackling the
causes of excessive drinking, confidentiality, counselling, screening, testing
and occupational health services.


Unions can play their part by training and providing information to union reps
on dealing with workplace alcohol issues, and by helping those members trying
to deal with their drink problems through rehabilitation schemes.

By Quentin Reade

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