One in six Britons drunk while at work

May 31 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

One in six workers in Britain has admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at work in the past six months, according to new research.

The poll by insurer Royal & SunAlliance was looking at the impact of changes to British licensing laws passed six months ago to allow pubs and bars to operate 24 hours a day.

The research found that two million working Britons took one or more days off sick because of alcohol-induced illness over the past six months.

While both employers and employees did not think the problem has got worse since the introduction of 24-hour drinking in November, there was an ongoing cultural problem in Britain of people drinking alcohol during the working day, the study concluded.

Younger workers were the worst culprits, with 12 per cent of under-30s pulling a "sickie" because of excess alcohol.

According to the Health & Safety Executive, between eight to 14 million working days in the UK are lost because of alcohol-related absenteeism.

The imminent football World Cup will cause even more of a headache for employers as soccer fans head to the pubs and bars to watch the World Cup games, the poll also predicted.

The R&SA study revealed that one in ten working Britons will leave work early to watch the football and five per cent will go to the pub to watch the games and then return to work.

Two per cent of employees called in sick during the last World Cup because of a hangover after watching the games, and the expected increase in absenteeism in June and July could have a serious effect on the nation's businesses, it warned.

To combat this, 20 per cent of companies are planning to show the England World Cup matches in the workplace, with 12 per cent arranging to show all of the games in the tournament.

A small number of employers (four per cent) will even give staff the day off if England win the cup.

Phil Bell, technical manager – liability at Royal & SunAlliance, said: "Our study reveals that there is an ongoing problem with alcohol in the workplace, even though the 24-hour drinking legislation has not increased this further.

"Employers can be held liable for accidents in the workplace and research shows that 20 – 25 per cent of these are caused by alcohol," he added.

"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 per cent of the companies we surveyed did have an alcohol policy, but this still leaves 14,000 employers at risk," he continued.

There was also a real North-South divide in drinking during working hours, which contradicts some established stereotypes.

London (26 per cent), eastern England (26 per cent) and the south west (24 per cent) had the most employees admitting to drinking during the working day, whereas those working in the northern regions (both north east and north west) drank the least, the study concluded.