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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 20:29 GMT
Growing drink problem costs firms dear
Man holding pint of lager
UK's growing drink problem 'needs to be tackled'
Employees are drinking more than ever before - at a cost of 15 million working days lost each year, union research has revealed.

Yet despite widespread absenteeism, the Trades Union Congress said that few employers had alcohol policies in place.

Union chiefs have voiced concern that employers were dealing alcohol issues merely by screening and testing staff.

The TUC urged the government to research the effects of stress, long hours and bullying.

However, heads of small businesses said that more red tape would not solve the problem of alcohol abuse among workers.

Stress factors

Long-term sickness, unemployment and premature death due to alcohol abuse costs the UK economy an estimated 2.3bn a year.

The TUC believes that not enough is understood about the effects of drink on the workplace, and called on the government to fund more research into the problem.

Alcoholics will do what they can get away with
Recovering alcoholic Tony

It also raised workplace factors as stress, bullying and long hours, and working away from home, which could lead to workers consuming more alcohol than was good for them.

TUC general secretary elect Brendan Barber said:

"It's in everyone's interest that we tackle the UK's growing drink problem.

"The TUC would like to see the government, unions and employers all coming together to deal with the issue in a sensitive and understanding way."

Paper tale

In addition, the TUC said firms which did not have alcohol policies should draw them up in consultation with unions in the workplace.

Policies should cover such topics as tackling the causes of excessive drinking; confidentiality; counselling; screening; and occupational health services.

HAVE YOUR SAY
How can we stop workplace drinking?
Better working conditions and more support from management might help
Ian, Scotland

However, a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told BBC News Online that the TUC proposals were "paper for paper's sake".

"Good practice needs to be encouraged but the last thing we need is more form filling and box ticking," the spokesman said.





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