UK employees admit that regular drinking affects their jobs

Article date: 7 May 2008

UK employers believe that ‘Booze Britain' is contributing to a lack of productivity in workplaces up and down the country, according to research released today.

The study*, by Norwich Union Healthcare, found that 77% of employers believe that alcohol is the number one threat to employee wellbeing and is encouraging sickness absence. Alarmingly though, the research reveals that employees are broadly unaware of this problem, with just 9% sharing employers' concerns.

However, following research with British workers by Norwich Union Healthcare it appears that alcohol in the workplace is a reality. When questioned about their drinking habits in relation to the workplace**, a third (32%) admitted to having been to work with a hangover and 15% even owned up to having been drunk at work. One in 10 employees admits to this happening at least once a month and one in 20 says it happens once a week.

Of those who have had a hangover or been drunk at work, 85% confirmed that it affects their performance or mood, proving the concerns of British employers are not unfounded. Employees said that alcohol affected their performance at work on a number of levels:

  • 36% of employees find it hard to concentrate
  • 35% of employees find they are less productive
  • 42% feel tired to the point of being very sleepy
  • A quarter do the minimum amount of work and go home as soon as possible
  • Nearly one in 10 makes lots of mistakes which they need to rectify.

The findings show that the drinking habits of the British workforce are not only having an impact on company profits but are also a threat to workers' careers and their profile within their company. More than half of employees (54%) thought that their bosses and colleagues noticed a change in their productivity as a result of drinking. A quarter (24%) of UK employees also answered that they have felt embarrassed about something they had said or done in front of their boss and colleagues after drinking.

Dr Douglas Wright, Norwich Union Healthcare, comments: "It seems that alcohol and the workplace often do go hand in hand. Sadly, alcohol use is associated with a number of medical conditions which can cause significant morbidity and therefore affect performance and attendance at work, costing UK plc. It's essential that companies have a robust Drug and Alcohol Policy and Procedure to tackle and, where possible, prevent any problems developing. This should include provision for support and, potentially, referral to appropriate facilities."

Don Shenker, from Alcohol Concern, says: "With many people drinking at harmful levels it's not surprising to find that it is having an effect on the workplace. After work or lunchtime drinks are the norm for many and in some cases this is promoted by companies as a way to build teams or just as the way 'to do business'. Employers need to watch out for the early warning signs that alcohol may be affecting their workers in a serious way."

Norwich Union Healthcare is one of the UK's leading providers of occupational health and wellness solutions, with a newly launched Employer Solutions provision offering seven dedicated clinics around the UK. As well as health and wellness advice, it also aids companies with targeted education days that highlight the effects of alcohol consumption and practical programmes to tackle the problems. Services include:

  • Independent Employee Assistance Programme, helping employees deal with health and well-being related problems
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Educational events run by fully qualified personnel to help prevent as well as treat alcohol-related problems
  • Employee rehabilitation programmes
  • A sickness absence line which helps employers monitor trends within companies

Some occupations are worse culprits than others in regards to drinking and the workplace. The research showed that a fifth of people working in construction and 15% of those working in wholesale and agriculture go to work hung over once a week. Moreover, workers in labour intensive occupations admitted that their alcohol use did not only affect productivity but that it could potentially threaten the health and safety of themselves and others - 61% of people working in manufacturing and 41% in construction roles said that they found it hard to concentrate with a hangover. A third of construction workers and nearly a quarter in manufacturing also admitted that they make lots of mistakes that they needed to rectify the following day.


Media contacts:
Melanie Corbett or Emma Robertson at Lexis PR 020 7908 6488

Norwich Union Press Office contact:
Emma Broadbent, Media Relations Manager 01904 452791
About the research

* Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned Vanson Bourne to conduct research amongst approximately 250 businesses from across the UK in November 2007 and commissionedYouGov to conduct research amongst approximately 1,000 consumers across the UK in December 2007.

** Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned ICM to conduct research amongst 1,000 consumers between 4-6 April 2008

About Norwich Union Healthcare

  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,400,000 lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection and private medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Occupation Health, a sister company of Norwich Union Healthcare, provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

About Alcohol Concern

  • Alcohol Concern is the national agency working to reduce alcohol related harm in society. They work to reduce the incidence and costs of alcohol-related harm and to increase the range and quality of alcohol services available to problem drinkers and their families. They provide information and encourage debate on the wide range of public policy issues affected by alcohol; including public health, housing, children and families, crime and licensing. They support specialist and non-specialist service providers helping to tackle alcohol problems at a local level, whilst also working to influence national alcohol policy

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