Staff believe 24-hour drinking laws will damage productivity

More
than half of UK employees fear that legalised 24-hour drinking will have a
detrimental effect on productivity at work, according to new research.

In
February next year, the 2003 Licensing Act will come into effect, allowing pubs
and clubs to stay open round-the-clock.

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

The
survey, which questioned 8,500 UK employees, reveals that 51 per cent of
respondents believe 24-hour licences will cause a further drain on UK
organisations’ productivity and finances.

Only
six per cent feel that 24-hour licensing will lead to increased productivity as
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, with 55 per cent of 18 to 25-year-old respondents
believing the relaxed laws will impact 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. 

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

However,
responsible employers should have no problem with the licensing changes,
according to Kevin Friery, director of counselling at well-being company Right
Corecare.

"Late-night
drinking does not need to equate to problem drinking,” he said. “Deregulation
puts choice in the hands of the citizen, and the need is to develop people who
can make good choices for themselves.

“An
employer who develops recruitment and training strategies built on the concept
of self-management and personal responsibility will be at an advantage, and
will be better placed to address problems if they arise,” Friery added.

Ben
Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel
and Development (CIPD), agreed. "People who want to drink after pub
closing times can do so quite happily in their own homes already," he
said. "We are not convinced that extended drinking hours will make a big
difference.” 

But
employers would be well advised to have clear drugs and alcohol policies in
place in any case, he added, setting out the standards expected of employees
and the penalties that will follow if they are breached.

CIPD
research shows that only around 60 per cent of companies have a drug and
alcohol policy.

Worst
experiences of going to work with a hangover
(Survey respondents)

“I
went to work straight from the pub after a lock-in and spent two hours asleep
in the corner. I was still quite drunk all morning and had a bloody awful
hangover in the afternoon. The same day I was sick a couple of times in my desk
drawer – I heaved into a bag so I wouldn’t make a scene – which I forgot to change
until after the weekend. This is why I never drink on a Thursday anymore.”

“I
spilt hot tea on my executive manager’s suit and punched my secretary. I also
smashed the vending machine.”

“The
morning after a work night out, I was severely comatose, but still turned up
for work.  I had some breakfast at my
desk, when a colleague came over to re-live the previous nights events. She
smelt my sausage and egg bun and threw up into my lap.  It soaked through my trousers into my nether
regions. I was given the rest of the day off on compassionate leave, and my
colleague went home sick.”

For
more on the survey, read page 6 in Personnel Today tomorrow

By Daniel Thomas

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