Booze could cost workplaces $1.65 billion

That last beer or glass of wine may have cost you $12, but it could cost your employer more than $1000 a year and the New Zealand economy $1.65 billion annually, new research suggests.

Academics in the University of Otago's departments of social medicine and management, aware alcohol consumption racked up huge costs to the health, justice and welfare sectors, have attempted to estimate the cost of drinking on the workplace.

Published today in the Drug And Alcohol Review, the researchers estimated the average annual cost of lost production per employee due to alcohol was $1097 a year.

Across the whole population, that could equate to $1.65 billion worth of lost economic production due to employees having a few drinks too many.

Through interviews with employees and employers, the study estimated the cost to business of staff taking an alcohol-related day off, the cost in employers time of dealing with drinking issues, and also attempted to assess the drop off in performance of staff battling a hangover or drinking on the job.

"[That was] more difficult to capture as it encompasses many factors - reduced productivity and quality of work, job errors, injury, the negative effect on co-workers, inefficient use of resources and damaged property, among others."

Staff aged under 25, men, and people with stressful jobs were the most likely to have drinking impact on their work, the researcher's survey found.

"The industry in which an employee worked was not found to have a significant effect on reduced productivity."

The good news was that alcohol-related drops in productivity were potentially solvable problems, study authors Trudy Sullivan, Fiona Edgar and Ian McAndrew said.

Better workplace policies on alcohol consumption, a managerial focus on improving the behaviour of at-risk staff and a supportive workplace environment could all help prevent drinking related issues in a business, they said.

"Although the secondary effects of turning up with a hangover might seem quite benign to most, recent research paints a somewhat more disturbing picture ... this is a problem which cannot be ignored."

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