Sobering thoughts

As many of us enjoyed one of the shortest working weeks of 2011, a Welsh charity has warned that two successive four day weekends will put a strain on some companies due to alcohol-related absenteeism. 

Just how bad is it?

  • Figures produced by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit (also published by the Scottish government) state that in 2001 over 176 million working days were lost due to sickness across the whole UK workforce, with between 6-15% of these attributed to alcohol related illness.
  • According to a HSE study 90% of personnel directors surveyed from top UK organisations stated that alcohol consumption was an issue for their company, although most said it was only a minor problem. 
  • In total, alcohol-related sickness absence is estimated to cost between £1.2-1.8 billion per year.

There are an abundance of different facts and figures relating to alcohol induced absenteeism, (the IAS is a particularly useful source) and whilst some figures differ, they all indicate that alcohol is a problem.

As a consequence some organisations operate a workplace alcohol policy to tackle these problems – to ensure that employees are sober, not only so that they are effective in their own roles but also to reduce risks to other staff and the company as whole.  Since most of our lives are spent at work it can be beneficial for our organisations to provide support, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, especially as 71% of men and 56% of women drink once a week and 11% and 6% every day (NHS statistics).

Organisations have an important stake in employee welfare, not simply to maintain productivity levels but as part of a wider corporate responsibility.

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