British economy hit by hangovers

Aug 23 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

British business is suffering from a £2.8bn annual hangover caused by alcohol-induced sick days and lost productivity, a problem that next year's introduction of 24-hour pub licences will only make even worse.

Ten million working days are lost annually in Britain as a result of people staying at home after excessive drinking, according to research by, costing British business an estimated £960 million.

In addition, the average employee turns up for work with a hangover two and a half days a year, blighting a further 72 million working days. One-in-three people admit taking five days off a year because of their excessive drinking.

Employees estimate that hangovers cause a 27 percent loss in productivity, equating to a total loss of 19 million working days annually - an extra cost to UK business of £1.8 billion in lost working hours.

This makes the total estimated cost to UK Business - combining alcohol-induced sick days with lost productivity through hangovers - of 29 million lost days, losing business an estimated £2.8 billion annually in lost working hours.

Whatís more, problems with hangovers could be set to increase. Almost a third (31 per cent) of workers feel it is now more acceptable to turn up to work with a hangover than it was three years ago. Surprisingly it is women who cite the biggest change in attitudes to alcohol, with 35 per cent of women feeling it is more acceptable to turn up for work with a hangover compared to 26 per cent of men.

Reed's survey of 8,400 people found that workers in the media are the most likely to arrive at work feeling worse for wear, with those employed in manufacturing the most abstemious.

But turning up for work with a hangover often means a lot more than not working at full steam. Reed's research uncovered a litany of horror-stories caused by that morning-after feeling, many of which cost employees their jobs.

Crushing things: One employee admitted to "crushing a Ford Escort by reversing over it in a JCB".

Mouthing off: One lady reported "saying to my supervisor íI sh*gged your bloke last night, and he was crapí, I was sacked that same day". Another shot his career in the toe when he "told a senior partner he was talking sh*t."

Passing out: One found a hangover too much and "passed out whilst on supermarket checkout", another "collapsed at work and had to be taken home by a colleague".

Throwing up: One respondent remembered "being sick all over my boss. I was sacked." Another "threw up on a customer".

Slurring words: A respondent found the next morning "that my speech was slurred to the point where I couldnít use the phone".

Blowing up: One employee lost it completely, saying "I spilt hot tea on my executive managerís suit and punched my secretary, as well as smashing the vending machine". Another said they simply "started a fist fight with my boss".

The findings raise serious concerns about government plans to relax licensing hours from the middle of next year.

Reed found that younger people in particular are most likely to believe 24-hour licences will adversely affect productivity at work, with more than half (55 per cent) saying it will be bad for the workplace.

Reed's Martin Warnes, said: "This research appears to question Government hope that 24-hour licences in pubs will lead to a more relaxed, Continental-style attitude towards drinking outside working hours. Young people, the age group most likely to take advantage of any relaxation, are the most concerned that it would affect productivity.

"It is interesting to recall that the licensing laws were first introduced because munitions workers in the First World War couldnít perform tasks properly. Perhaps the Government should bear this in mind before trying to introduce a European drinking culture through legal changes."