Alcohol is estimated to cause 3-5% of all absences from work; about 8 to 14 million lost working days in the UK each year. This comes at a cost of £7.3 billion per year to the UK economy and is the cause of 40% of accidents in the workplace.
The obvious causes of alcohol misuse is the hangover, whereby employees take sick days due to drinking too much the night before but there are also other implications to the workplace, as well as the lives of employees. For example, for 25 to 59 year olds, excessive drinking is the world’s primary risk factor for ill heath and premature death.
The problems lie in the fact that it isn’t always obvious when co-workers or staff are suffering due to alcohol misuse. There are actually more than 60 different medical conditions caused by alcohol misuse ranging from liver cirrhosis to throat cancer, as well as the problems associated with safety when employees in certain work environments turn in drunk or hungover.
What can your business do to help employees?
There is suggestion that the same approach used in GP’s surgeries and hospitals may also be effective in the workplace. This involves using a risk assessment sheet, on which employees answer a number of questions about their drinking habits. A five to ten minute session including feedback and advice on the assessment’s results is then given.
The evidence that making drinkers aware of health implications has positive effects is extensive and NICE recommends this approach to the medical environment. A number of organisations are now implementing this practice in the work environment to help lower individuals’ alcohol intake.