Christmas: Workers' billion-pound hangover

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The Independent Online
Do you hang over your desk at work with a thumping head and a mouth like a badger's hindquarters? Has your boss been lurching around the office with bloodshot eyes and foul breath? It's part of a trend, says Barrie Clement - hangovers are costing British industry about 8 million lost days a year.

From the boardroom to the shopfloor, people seem to be taking to alcohol to relieve increasing stress at work, with professional employees outdrinking more junior staffers.

An National Opinion Polls survey published today shows that nearly 60 per cent of "middle class" employees regularly drink to help them relax, compared to around 45 per cent of all workers.

But with Christmas looming, researchers found that most employees are in denial over the effects of alcohol.

A "staggering" 39 per cent of British males admitted that they had felt ill at work due to too much drink the previous day, they discovered. Some 18 per cent admitted taking time off because they were incapable of turning up. However, 79 per cent claimed that in the run-up to Christmas, alcohol "does not in any way" affect their performance.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Guardian Employee Benefits, which offers insurance to companies for absence, showed that nearly one-quarter of offices allow drinking on the premises on some occasions thoughout the year. Two-thirds of workplaces had no policy on alcohol abuse, nor offer counselling to those who abuse drink.

Brian Rawle, marketing manager of the insurance company, said it was clear that staff were sometimes incapacitated by drink and that it not only affected their own performance, but that of others.

After a long period of "downsizing", which had affected most parts of industry, companies expected people to work to full capacity: alcohol impaired their ability to do so. It was not a question of being a "killjoy" before Christmas or encouraging managers to "spy". Mr Rawle attacked the "blinkered" attitude of many employers to the damaging impact of alcohol. He pointed out that that the Health Education Authority estimated that problem drinking was costing British industry more than pounds 1bn a year.