Employers should be made to tackle workplace alcohol abuse

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Drink awareness charity, Alcohol Concern, has written to the Government to call for a greater focus on alcohol issues in the workplace.

The leading national charity has recommended to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, that a specific policy to address alcohol be included as an explicit requirement in the Corporate Governance Code that sets out the responsibilities of the Boards of companies listed in the UK.

It says that lost productivity and absenteeism because of alcohol was shown to cost the economy 14 million working days and up to £6.4bn each year when it was last researched by Government and businesses need to do more to help change employees’ attitudes to alcohol.

Around ten million men and women in England drink above the recommended guidelines, and every day around 200,000 people go to work in the UK with a hangover.

Under the Corporate Governance Code, listed companies must provide a framework for risk to be assessed and managed and ensure the necessary human resources are in place to meet business objectives and obligations to shareholders.

Alcohol Concern argues that an effective alcohol policy is a material component of business strategy and because employees are a key business asset, Boards should have a formal responsibility to address financial losses incurred through their reduced performance caused by alcohol. By failing to do this, and in many cases to even recognise the impact of alcohol misuse, Boards are neither complying with the spirit or the letter of the Code.

As well as asking for Government support to address the issues from a policy perspective, Alcohol Concern is writing to the Chairmen of FTSE 250 companies directly to propose a solution to workplace alcohol issues. Alcohol Concern has entered into a partnership with BreathScan, a workplace alcohol specialist, to develop innovative ways to tackle drinking culture and improve employee wellbeing and productivity.

Research carried out by BreathScan among FTSE 250 companies shows that most of them are ignoring alcohol as an issue in the workplace. Only one-fifth (55 out of 250) have obvious alcohol awareness policies.

Alcohol Concern Chief Executive, Eric Appleby, commented:

“Companies simply have to address attitudes to alcohol and drinking behaviours – it is costing the economy billions every year. 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.”

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