The Hidden Costs of Alcohol in the Workplace

Business leaders need to avoid the moral and financial trap that is going under the radar. 


You care about the people you work with, the last thing you want to do is expose them to danger. But aside from your desire to keep them safe and healthy, there’s a financial reason not to expose them to danger. 


38 Danish women received compensation from their employer’s insurance because they were night workers. They developed breast cancer despite being at low risk for contracting the illness.  


They were awarded compensation because the danger of night working has become better understood. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer: “shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans.”


But night work is not the moral or financial trap you should be worried about. 


Because the same international agency classifies alcohol as carcinogenic to humans. Not “probably carcinogenic” but absolutely, definitely, we proved it 35 years ago carcinogenic. It’s in the same class as tobacco smoke and mustard gas. And we’ve known that it was carcinogenic for 35 years.


Bad news for some, alcohol causes cancer.


Worst news for businesses because there will come a time when they start paying compensation for people who drink as a result of their job. Think about it, there are people who have been exposed to alcohol as a part of their job and have gone on to develop one of the eight cancers which are known to be caused by alcohol consumption.  


When are they going to start demanding compensation? 


There will be people out there who think I’m taking my argument a bit far here, surely no company is going to be held liable for its employees drinking? You might be right. 


But then again, I can give you a lot of examples of where drinking was an integral part of the job. Examples of employees being told to drink with clients because the clients won’t trust them if they don’t. Examples of career advancement being linked to drinking with the boss. Examples of social events where only alcohol was available. Examples of companies that have on site bars or beer fridges. 


Or companies where drinking wasn’t a part of the culture – it was the culture. 


And these problems are coming home to roost. People who spent decades in industries that floated on alcohol are starting to see their retirement ruined by ill health. How long before we see some enterprising lawyers taking up this cause? I bet there’s money in it. 


Of course, the alternative would be to provide your employees with training and screening to ensure that the alcohol that they’re exposed to doesn’t cause them a problem. If that sounds better than ending up in court, let’s talk.

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