Lack of workplace alcohol policies impacts on economy

Just one-fifth of FTSE 250 companies have explicit alcohol-at-work policies in place, with lost productivity and absenteeism due to alcohol costing the economy approximately 14 million working days and £6.4 billion per year, an alcohol charity has warned.

Alcohol Concern has written to business secretary Vince Cable recommending that a specific alcohol policy be included as a requirement in the “Corporate governance code”, the code which sets out the board responsibilities of companies listed in the UK.

The warning followed Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to a hospital in the North-East of England to highlight the wider health and societal costs of alcohol.

According to latest government figures, the bill from alcohol to the NHS currently stands at £2.7 billion per year, including £1 billion on accident and emergency services.

In 2010/11, there were 200,000 hospital admissions with a primary alcohol-related diagnosis, 40% higher than in 2002/03, and the number of patients admitted with acute intoxification has more than doubled to 18,500 since 2002/03.

Around 10 million men and women in England drink above the recommended guidelines and each day 200,000 people go to work in the UK with a hangover, it added.

Alcohol Concern has also written to the chairmen of FTSE 250 companies urging them to make effective alcohol policies part of each board’s “formal responsibility”.

The chief executive of Alcohol Concern Eric Appleby said: “Companies simply have to address attitudes to alcohol and drinking behaviours – it is costing the economy billions every year. The evidence is that boards are not taking the issue seriously.”

Under the “Corporate governance code”, listed companies must provide a framework for risk to be assessed and managed, and ensure the necessary human resources are in place to meet business objectives and obligations to shareholders.

In a separate move, the Government’s Change4Life public health campaign has launched a national advertising campaign highlighting the risk to people of serious illness, including heart disease, stroke and cancer, if they drink just a little bit more than the recommended daily allowance.

It also that found many people remained unaware that drinking too much could lead to an increased risk of developing: breast cancer; bowel cancer; pancreatitis; mouth, throat and neck cancer; high blood pressure; and reduced fertility.

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