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Last Updated: Monday, 24 February 2003, 13:17 GMT
How can we stop workplace drinking?
Selection of drinks

A TUC report has said that few employers have adequate policies for dealing with Britain's growing drink problem.

"A Potent Cocktail" reveals that up to 14.8 million working days are lost as a result of drinking.

It also estimates that the effects of alcohol abuse such as long-term sickness, unemployment and premature death costs the UK economy around 2.3bn a year.

Stress, bullying and long working hours are seen as factors that can lead to workers consuming more alcohol than is good for them.

The document calls for more co-operation between the Government, unions and employers to tackle the problem.

What can be done to reduce workplace drinking? Have you had adverse experience of it? Send us your experiences.


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

I think everyone should take careful note of this previous submission from an Alcoholic: "I drank alcoholically for many years, including lunchtimes. This had two effects. The first was that I underperformed for my company and had a harmful effect on those around me and the second was that my personal life became increasingly desperate. I was able to do this because of the tolerance shown to my drinking by both employers and my family and friends. They thought that they were doing the kind thing but were in effect enabling me to continue in my downward spiral. I stopped drinking entirely almost two years ago and now find that I am happier than I have ever been in my adult life. I wish I had done it years ago. Alcoholic, England "

I know both sides from having watched what it does to people who drink alcohol during and after work, although I don't drink alcohol since I don't enjoy the taste or the effects. Those who are under the influence of any amount of alcohol do not see themselves as others see them. Perhaps UK companies would be advised to invest in video cameras for this purpose - not as a means of spying, but to let those who drink learn and be shocked into or perhaps warned to stop?
Allie, UK

Aren't we allowed to have fun any more
Owen, UK
Is this another example of the 'Nanny State' I've heard so much about? What on earth is wrong with, after a long hard week at work, going out before your day off and having a fair bit to drink? That's one of the reasons its there in the first place - to allow us to relax! I agree with Mr Tankard -aren't we allowed to have fun any more because it might just affect our 'productivity'? Everyone's guilty of it anyway, turning up to work once or twice slightly the worse for wear from the previous night.
Owen, UK

The word moderation seems to have left the Modern lexicon. Apart from an outright ban, which would be desirable but completely unworkable, I would suggest that companies including Government departments should encourage people to drink less by putting less stress on people. Education by parents of their children also plays a great part. But there are no parents, they are all out at work. Of course this will never take off. The Pubs have too much profit to lose, so has the Exchequer and the losses are far outweighed by the fact that Government saves on pensions. For the moment let us concentrate on putting cigarettes on the Misuse of Drugs schedule. One step at a time.
Tony, Welling, Kent

I once worked for a company that had a very strict 'no alcohol' rule, both at the US parent and in the UK and German subsidiaries. However, the French, Italian and Spanish subsidiaries all served wine in the staff restaurant at lunchtimes! The situation in the UK was so bad that security were known to spot check foreign visitors, to make sure that they weren't bringing in duty frees for their UK colleagues, and if any was found we had to collect it and take it straight to our cars.
Keith L, UK

A beer is required when a boss is always nagging like a fishwife. I had one which would ask you on Friday to detail the exact hours you spent on each task of the week. Then on Monday come round and quiz you about each entry. You never knew whether he wanted the figures higher for budget reasons or lower because he didn't think the work was up to the figure. Get a round in lads and see you at midday!
Rich, UK

We are expected to continue a joyless existence
Dave Tankard, UK
So once again we are expected to continue a joyless existence, denied basic pleasures on the off chance that a small number of us will cease to be 100% productive drones oiling the wheels of "the machine". People are individuals, they have their own desires and their own pleasures. While it is reasonable to expect people to be sober while they are at work, what they do in their own time is their business. The day my company tries to tell me what I can and can't do with what little free time I have is the day they will get my summary resignation.
Dave Tankard, UK

Working for a drug and drink counselling agency we see hundreds of people a year who do not feel supported by employers and are hiding their drinking from colleagues. Policies need to be workable and awareness needs to be raised - no one is trying to be a prude or stop people having fun but those who say 'leave us alone' are just ignorant of the extent of the problem and the misery it can cause.
Simon, Engalnd

It's none of the employer's business
Tom, UK
What is the problem with a drink at lunchtime? I can see the point if you are operating heavy machinery or driving, but otherwise it's none of the employer's business. If it's not on their time it's none of their business.
Tom, UK

I often drink in the week (last night being just one example). I feel a bit ropey but I'm still here in the office working away! I always work when hangover as i feel it's my fault and I just have to get on with it!
Sarah, UK

Obviously, in some jobs being tipsy during working hours is dangerous and criminally negligent. Thankfully, I do not have one of these jobs. Indeed, having a pleasant buzz during the late afternoon assists my creativity in the office.
Hugh, England

When I worked in the US, I would have been disciplined (or fired) had I come back drunk from lunch. Here in the UK, I am always the only person in my office to come back from lunch sober. Now my colleagues won't socialise with me, as they can't seem to understand that I can have a good time without being drunk.
Susan, UK (US)

If I can't take my clients out for lunch & get them drunk, I won't make the company any money at all.
Ali, London, UK

What about the advantages? It makes the working day go a lot quicker.
Dave, England

I once worked somewhere where they tried to crack down on lunchtime drinking. Basically it was forbidden. The quid pro quo was that the boss would take everyone down the pub for a couple of hours at 4:30 on Fridays. It was a disaster. Instead of working, everyone spent hours complaining that, without a lunchtime drink, the day would just drag on and on. After about six months the scheme fell into disuse and everyone was happy again!
Paul, UK

Oh grief, when will these interfering nanny busybodies stop. Yes drinking can be dangerous if taken too far, so can walking down the road, not walking, eating, not eating, in fact we are all destined to be ill and dead at sometime. If some people can't or won't take responsibility for their behaviour, both in terms of drink and other things I don't think I want someone legislating for them.
Dave, England

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
John Lawrence, uk

Drinking at work, and you want to get paid!?
Sony, Japan
This is unbelievable, drinking in workplace, and still you want to get paid? What an easy life!!
Sony, Japan

Are we here to serve the economy, or is the economy there to serve us? I say eat, drink and be merry, and learn to enjoy life! It's not a credo for everyone (well maybe the last bit should be) but stop all this mealy-mouthed moralising, you make me sick. Go and have some fun, whether you drink or not.
Aegir, UK

Drinking should be allowed at work - that's the only way management get to hear what the need to hear, rather than what they want to hear.
Ray, Scotland

Robert Armstrong: No employer has that right! I would not go near an employer that expected me to not drink during the week. What I do in the evening is my business NOT my companie's.
Vish, UK

Leave the munitions workers alone!
Colin Harrison, England

This is yet more social nannying by the PC crowd. Yet another imported Puritanism from USA style of management. What are being lost are the benefits of social interaction between the workers at lunch time. I work across all of Europe where light social drinking at lunch time is not a problem. I agree that heavy drinking should be dealt with.
Andy Bishop, England

Who wants to stop it? It's a lesser evil than suicide due to the stress, bullying and long working hours. It doesn't help people life forever, but sure helps to get through one day. People have drunk since the dawn of history but maybe now that is all going to stop because the world is just perfect.
Michael Harris, Ireland

The only thing I want to know is where the TUC got these figures from. Because, quite frankly I do not believe them. With these, and the hours lost via feigned illness, e-mails at the work place, internet access at the work place, discussing Eastenders or Coronation Street, time off for smoke breaks, it would mean that nobody in the UK actually does any work.
Iain, scotland

As long as it doesn't effect your job or put people at risk, I hardly see the harm in having a few drinks at work
William Sutton, British Columbia
Our Premier recently was busted for drinking and driving in Hawaii. There was a lot of public demand for his resignation afterwards but he did not step down. As long as it doesn't effect your job or put people at risk, I hardly see the harm in having a few drinks at work. Can we say moderation?
William Sutton, British Columbia

That's an easy one! Reduce the working hours in accordance with the rest of Europe plus match their wages and also the holidays too. Also, remove dictatorial Managers and improve the working environment and THEN you won't see workplace drinking because we will have already become relaxed by spending more time with our families which will reduce hooliganism from unattended children that truly need parenting!
Stephen Lynn, Scotland

Hey! We have "Stress, bullying, and long working hours" on this side of the pond, too! I'm taking a bottle of Vodka to work with me tomorrow! Thanks!
Eric Totel, USA

In the three years I have worked for my current company I have taken a total of three days off "sick" with alcohol-related troubles. In the last six months I have taken four weeks off (on my doctor's advice) suffering from extreme stress caused by my direct manager (on top of several months of low productivity). It's not hard to see which is more damaging to the economy. Alcohol is frequently the symptom of a greater ill.
X, England

Only 14.8 million days lost through drinking? We must all try harder.
Rachael Claye, Lebanon

The new puritan streak which seems to be around these days takes all the fun out of life
Roger Jackson, England
It is only excessive drinking that causes problems - moderate drinking is good for you. By all means offer help to those with a problem but leave the rest of us to enjoy a pint or two or a couple of glasses of wine. The new puritan streak which seems to be around these days takes all the fun out of life. Do gooders please stick to attacking smokers.
Roger Jackson, England

How many sick days are taken as a result of stress from managers?
Neil Parr, UK

It costs the economy so much money because the government treats us like children. So people act like children. We should remove the dole and NHS and let the people have their money back. Then it won't cost the government a penny.
Ewan, UK

This problem will end when the UK relaxes its licensing laws, thus fostering a responsible drinking culture, rather than the current "race against time" mentality.
Oliver Mallen, UK

Leave the workers alone!
John Lavelle, St. Helens, UK

John Lavelle - if people are drunk, they can't work!
Barry, England

The day my company rules my personal life is the day I will give up life altogether. I would like the job at TUC where they get to compile these reports that encourage our employers to put these controlling clauses in out contracts.
Kimberley O'Connelll, England

White collar workers are rarely seen boozing during work hours over here, as it is a ground for dismissal. The problem is boozing in the evening and the subsequent day off sick. Rather than non-payment for the first day of sickness, a note confirming an appointment with your GP may do the job. I would imagine the hassle of arranging this would get many people out of bed and into work.
Simon Tan, Switzerland

It's British culture that needs to be addressed not specifically the workplace
Phillip Holley, UK
The problem here is not alcohol in relation to work but alcohol in relation to British culture. We drink and we do it not to accompany meals or enjoyment of quality like our continental cousins but like some kind of competition with real pride and kudos associated with alcoholic tolerance. It's this culture that needs to be addressed not specifically the workplace.
Phillip Holley, UK

I am staggered at the comments people have made. Many people drink too much and it is tolerated. Alcohol is a social and legal drug but so were cocaine and heroin in the 19th century! Alcohol causes more accidents, more violence and more self damage than any other drug. Alcohol destroys lives and flippant comments hardly help a serious discussion.
Siobhan, UK

Most companies have some kind of procedure document which includes being drunk (or unduly influenced by drink or drugs) in the definition of Gross Misconduct. Companies that employ people to drive vehicles or operate potentially dangerous machinery are likely to have clauses requiring those people to be completely sober throughout their shift. So I don't think any further measures are needed in the workplace. As far as out-of-working-hours drinking is concerned, the person who can't handle his job due to a hangover is in the same position as a musician who damages his fingers while indulging in contact sport - he won't hold down the gig for very long if his out-of-work activities prevent him from performing properly.
Phil, UK

The problem is not just within the work place. British people do not know how to have fun unless alcohol is involved - that goes for adults as well as teenagers.
Anonymous,

I think drinking in work would reduce if our Director hadn't walked around the office offering cans of Stella last Friday afternoon! While I realise this topic is a serious issue, I think it has a lot to do with the mentality of the workers themselves and the respect they have to their job.
Mike, Wales, UK

I drank alcoholically for many years, including lunchtimes. This had two effects. The first was that I underperformed for my company and had a harmful effect on those around me and the second was that my personal life became increasingly desperate. I was able to do this because of the tolerance shown to my drinking by both employers and my family and friends. They thought that they were doing the kind thing but were in effect enabling me to continue in my downward spiral. I stopped drinking entirely almost two years ago and now find that I am happier than I have ever been in my adult life. I wish I had done it years ago.
Alcoholic, England

Drinking on a 'school night' is one of life's great pleasures - you get paid for your hangover!
Mike, UK

Here in Sweden, we receive no pay for the first day we are off work sick. When I lived in the UK I would often drink in the evenings on weekdays. I seldom do that in Sweden. Calling in "sick" because I have a hangover is no longer an option for me! I know everyone will hate me for suggesting the UK adopts the same strategy, but think of the money it would save.
Ric Downey, Sweden (expat)

Less than one day per year lost per working person? I think the economy will survive somehow.
Phil B, UK

Contracts must state that employees maintain, whenever possible, a fit state to work.
Robert Armstrong, Sheffield

Surely its up to the employer to enforce a policy of "T-Total Work". Contracts must state that employees maintain, whenever possible, a fit state to work. Self induced illness from drinking should be treated just as any other breach of contract.
Robert Armstrong, Sheffield, UK

Better working conditions and more support from management might help to cut excessive drinking because of work pressures.
Ian, Scotland

The economic losses indicated are in balance with profound losses of citizenry who are otherwise disenfranchised as they are here in the USA. Any attempt to synthetically reduce (force)workplace drinking will no doubt lead to other unexpected workplace problems that may be even more devastating economically. You have asked the wrong question.
Ken, USA

I find that staying awake and letting the effects wear off before going to bed. This way when you come round in the morning you will feel fine. Drink some water too. Hope it helps. Paul Martin
Paul Martin,




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