New drinking laws feared by business

There
are less than six months until new laws legalising 24-hour drinking come into
effect. But both employers and staff fear that increased drinking will cause
problems at work and lead to a decrease in productivity.

The
Government hopes the implementation of the 2003 Licensing Act will bring
European- style ‘cafe culture’ to UK
cities, reducing the potential for post-closing time misbehaviour.

However,
a survey of almost 8,500 UK
staff unveiled this week shows the majority of respondents believe that
round-the-clock licences will have a detrimental effect on productivity at work

The
research, compiled by recruitment website Reed.co.uk, estimates that the total
cost of alcohol abuse to UK
business – combining the cost of drink-induced sick days with lost productivity
caused by hangovers at work – is already almost £2.8bn per annum.

More
than half the respondents (51 per cent), drawn from more than 10 industry
sectors, believe that 24-hour licences will cause a further drain on UK
organisations’ productivity and finances. Only 6 per cent believe it will lead
to increased productivity at work, while just over a third (37 per cent) believe there will be no change.

Younger
people – who are considered the most likely to binge drink – are particularly
concerned. The research shows 55 per cent of 18 to 25-year-old respondents
believe the relaxed laws will hit productivity.

The
survey also highlights the change in attitudes to alcohol, with almost a third
(31 per cent) of respondents suggesting it is now more acceptable to turn up to
work with a hangover than it was three years ago.

Geethika Jayatilaka, director of policy and public affairs at
Alcohol Concern, said the findings raise fears that new licencing laws could exacerbate current problems in
the workplace.

"We
already know that binge drinkers are at a higher risk of unemployment, and this
research serves to reinforce the fact that staff who go out drinking excessively are more likely to
under-perform or call in sick the next day," she said.

"Drinking
too much the night before is also accountable for many avoidable accidents at
work caused by employees still under the influence of alcohol."

Martin
Warnes, manager of
Reed.co.uk, said the Government should consider scrapping the option of being
open all hours from the Licensing Act.

"It
is interesting to recall that the licencing
laws were first introduced because munitions workers in the First World War
couldn’t perform tasks properly," he said. "Perhaps the Government
should bear this in mind before trying to introduce a European drinking culture
through legal changes."

Last
year, the TUC called on employers to work harder with unions to draw up alcohol
policies that covered the causes of excessive drinking, confidentiality,
counselling, screening, testing and the role of occupational health services.

However,
employers should tread carefully when considering alcohol-related issues at
work, said Mark Taylor, employment partner at law firm Lovells.

"If
the employer has a reasonable belief that an employee’s performance is being
affected by alcohol and has proof – such as slurring – it could be treated as
misconduct," he said. "But the difficulty is consistency, because
people could point to situations, such as sales staff being encouraged to drink
at lunchtime with clients."

Despite
the potential difficulties, most employers should not face too many problems
due to the new laws, according to Taylor, who believes the findings of the Reed
survey are over-pessimistic.

"There
may be an element of novelty at the start, but after a few months it should
settle down," he said. "The majority of workers are responsible
enough not to let alcohol affect their performance."

By Daniel Thomas 

Hangovers: the cost to UK employers 


UK
employees on average turn up to work with a hangover two-and-a half days a
year, which, given a working population of 28,301,000, translates to more than
72 million days 


Hangovers cause a 27 per cent loss in productivity among those who make it into
work after a night of alcoholic excess


In real terms, this equates to a loss of 19 million working days annually, with
a cost to UK
employers of £1.8bn in lost working hours


This is in addition to the 10 million working days lost annually as staff take
days off sick due to hangovers, costing UK employers an estimated £960m

Source:
Reed.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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