A new survey reveals that one in six UK employees admits to being under the influence of alcohol while at work during the past six months and suggests that HR managers implement anti-alcohol policies.
The survey, commissioned by commercial insurers Royal & Sun Alliance, sought to establish the effect in the workplace of last year’s introduction of 24-hour licensing laws.
According to the survey, between 20% and 25% of accidents in the workplace are related to alcohol. In addition, two million Britons took a day off work during the past six months to recover from a hangover.
Neither employers nor employees thought the introduction of extended licensing hours had made matters worse, but Royal & Sun Alliance says the UK has an ‘ongoing cultural problem’ of daytime drinking.
Phil Bell, technical manager – liability, at Royal & Sun Alliance, said the survey demonstrated the need for employers to put policies in place to minimise their liability arising from alcohol-related accidents at work: “Employers need to put risk controls and policies in place to ensure that they are providing a safe working environment for their employees, particularly with the World Cup approaching. Encouragingly, 91% of the companies we surveyed did have an alcohol policy, but this still leaves 14,000 employers at risk.”
The survey reveals a north-south divide in attitudes to daytime drinking. London, eastern England and the south-west having the most workers who admit to having a drink during the working day with 26%, 26% and 24% respectively. Those working in the north-east and the north-west drink the least.
Younger age groups are the worst culprits with 12% of the under-30s calling in sick due to excess alcohol. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that between eight and 14 million working days a year are lost to alcohol-related absenteeism.
Bell points out that the risk of accident is not the only problem caused by drinking at work: “The effects of alcohol can be extensive, from an increased number of accidents in the workplace or lateness due to hangovers, through to impaired decision making, and a poor image for customers or clients. This can have an impact on everyone, especially sober colleagues who end up carrying the strain.”
With many employees planning to watch World Cup games over the next month, the issue is likely to become more of a headache than normal.
Royal & Sun Alliance reports that 20% of employers are planning to show all the England World Cup matches to prevent staff from disappearing to the pub. Twelve per cent are planning to screen all the matches in the tournament and 4% said they will give their employees the day off if England win.
The company has provided tips to help organisations set up an anti-alcohol policy:
- Companies should closely monitor whether there is a problem by looking at records on sickness absence, productivity, accident records and disciplinary procedures
- Explain who is responsible for carrying out the policy, the rules, details of disciplinary actions that will be taken and help that is available to employees
- Consultation is vital – any changes in company rules are made easier if staff feel they have been consulted beforehand – also make sure your policy is properly communicated and easily accessible
- Develop suitable training for managers and supervisors to help gain managers’ and employees’ support for the policy.