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February 1, 2012

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Government urged to mandate employers to tackle alcohol at work

A charity has written to the Government calling for a greater focus on alcohol issues in the workplace, which, it says, have a major negative impact on productivity.
In its letter to Business Secretary Vince Cable Alcohol Concern recommended that a specific policy to address alcohol be included as an explicit requirement in the Corporate Governance Code, which sets out the responsibilities of the Boards of companies listed in the UK.
The charity’s concerns are based on governmental research from 2004, which found that lost productivity and absenteeism due to alcohol cost the economy up to £6.4 billion and 14 million lost working days each year. It also cites more recent research carried out by workplace testing firm BreathScan, which revealed that just 20 per cent of FTSE-250 companies have a clear alcohol-awareness policy.
Alcohol Concern says such a policy is a “material component” of business strategy and that, as 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, the charity claims, Boards are not complying with their duties under the Corporate Governance Code to assess and manage risk, and ensure the necessary human resources are in place to meet business objectives.
Said the charity’s chief executive, Eric Appleby: “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 an alcohol policy as a specific requirement under the Corporate Governance Code. This will help improve the well-being of employees and, at the same time, improve productivity and efficiency.”
The HSE agrees that all companies, large and small, can benefit from having an alcohol policy in place and advises that it should be drawn up in close consultation with the workforce. With regard to screening and testing, however, securing the agreement of the workforce in principle is essential and this agreement must be incorporated in each member of staff’s employment contract.
For further information, visit or to read a previous SHP feature on alcohol and drugs in the workplace.

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12 years ago

I work for a company that employs a lot of ‘transient’ agency workers. The policy is well publicised to our workers, we screen all new starters on site for drugs and alcohol – staff & agency. Everyone on site knows they will be tested a minimum of once per year – randomly by us – and our clients. Our personnel understand exactly why we carry out these tests which are carried out in ‘medical confidence’ We also have policies for supporting staff who declare that they have a problem.

12 years ago

Part 2
Our company has recently entered the FTSE. I can’t speak corporatly for our company, however, all site run regular trainoing sessions about wellbeing on drugs, alcohol, smoking, diet, weight and many more. Coupled with ‘culture building’ and robust safety practicethere is a noticable improvement in the general health of our workforce. So, there’s nothing for companies to fear other than denial.

12 years ago

There are many reasons why employers should address alcohol issues. The first is financial, a report by the EU in September showed that employers would save at least £3 for every £1 spent on alcohol issues other studies have found the savings to be higher. Other obvious reasons are safety, the health of the workforce, morale, the quality of work etc. Look at our website for access to information and tools that you can use to change the drinking culture of your workplace.