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Alcohol and the Workplace

There is a clear link between the misuse of alcohol and reduced safety, productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

The government estimates that up to 17 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol related sickness. Work related alcohol misuse costs the economy up to £6.4 billion each year (Cabinet Officer 2003). Depression, nervous debility and anxiety (often written on sick notes) are conditions that can be caused by alcohol misuse. In East Lancashire approximately 50,000 (roughly a quarter of the adult population) are drinking at hazardous or harmful levels. Statistics such as these demonstrate that there is a real likelihood of alcohol problems occurring in the workplace. Forward thinking pro-active employers will develop effective procedures to deal with alcohol related problems and as good employer will take steps to promote safe, sensible drinking messages throughout the workforce.

Why promote safer drinking messages at work?

You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of excess alcohol to continue working and this places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted. Similarly, your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do.

The impact of alcohol misuse is increasingly accepted as one of the biggest public health problems in society today. Most people who drink alcohol do so without endangering their own or anyone else’s wellbeing. However a large minority do take increasing risks by drinking at higher levels and for some this impacts negatively on work performance, company image, or compromises health and safety at work. This minority through their excessive alcohol consumption cause a disproportionately large financial burden to business and the economy.

Benefits to employers

  • Reduce the health and safety risks to employees, clients and members of the general public
  • Improve the quality of the service you offer customers
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve employee performance and reduce sickness absence levels

Benefits to employees

  • Awareness of the health and other associated risks of excessive alcohol consumption and Department of Health recommended limits
  • Learn of their responsibilities as employees with regard to alcohol, health and safety and the general welfare of their work colleagues and members of the public.
  • Be provided with sources of support and advice to enable them to reduce their consumption of alcohol if they wish to
  • Improved health and wellbeing