14m days a year lost to drinking

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coins in beerDominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

An alcohol charity has warned that 14 million working days are lost every year, at a cost of £6.4 million, because of excessive drinking. Whether people are having a drink at lunchtime that renders them useless all afternoon, or recovering from a massive hangover that has left them feeling close to death all day, alcohol abuse is an expensive problem.

Alcohol Concern has warned that it is being completely ignored by some of Britain's biggest firms. So what are the risks, and what can be done?

The risks

Alcohol abuse is rife in the UK. Around 10 million men and women in England drink more than the recommended maximum of alcohol every day, and about 200,000 people go to work with a hangover.

Anyone who has staggered into work the morning after the night before knows that their productivity suffers. At best they will achieve nothing until they've made it to KFC for lunch, at worst they could do considerable damage.

But while most companies insist that their employees aren't drunk at work, the charity said few go any further to protect their people and their business.

Policies

Alcohol Concern says that a company's attitude to booze ought to be part of every corporate governance code. These codes are designed to ensure that companies listed on the stock exchange assess and manage all the risks they take in the course of their business.

The charity says alcohol ought to be one of the risks considered, and the management ought to be formally tasked with addressing any financial loss the business faces because of alcohol abuse by staff.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby told the Daily Telegraph: "The evidence is that boards are not taking the issue seriously and that's why we are calling on the Government to include alcohol policy as a specific requirement under the corporate governance code. This will help improve the wellbeing of employees, and at the same time, improve efficiency and productivity."

The problem

There are a number of ways in which policies could address alcohol issues. At one level free advice, healthchecks, and awareness events in the workplace could help build support for a better attitude to drinking in general.

Where there are clear problems, there could be individually tailored assistance, and even a process of checks to ensure that employees are not under the influence of alcohol at work.

However, the real problem is that drinking is such an accepted part of life in the UK. From the pint after work, to the wild and crazy weekend, booze is part of the fabric of everyday life in this country. If businesses want to tackle how it impacts on the workplace, they are going to have to face the issues on a deeper, long-term, cultural level and fundamentally change the way people think.

There's a real question mark over whether this is something any corporate governance code is going to achieve. But what do you think? let us know in the comments.