Australian workers are significantly affected by other people's alcohol drinking and at a considerable cost, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Caroline Dale, from Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Michael Livingston, from Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Melbourne, conducted a study to estimate the cost of extra time worked by Australian workers due to their co-workers' alcohol drinking.
AdvertisementMr Livingston said that around a third of Australian workers have experienced negative effects from their co-workers' alcohol drinking, with 3.5 per cent of workers reporting having to work extra hours to cover for others.
"Our findings show that the experience of having a heavily drinking co-worker is common in the Australian workplace," Mr Livingston said.
"The cost of alcohol use in the workplace is multifaceted and considerable, and can be caused by a reduction in the productive workforce from premature mortality or morbidity, absenteeism due to alcohol-related sickness, and reduced productivity while at work."
Mr Livingston said that, on average, those workers who reported working additional hours in the year because of their co-workers' alcohol drinking habits worked an additional week annually, costing the Australian economy $453 million.
"Among those who had to work extra hours because of co-workers' alcohol drinking the burden was considerable," Mr Livingston said.
"The large annual cost we estimated at the population level of $453 million for extra hours worked because of co-workers' alcohol drinking is comparable to estimates of the cost of alcohol-attributable absenteeism in Australia.
"We did not attempt to attribute economic costs to the harms to workers whose work performance was negatively affected by the alcohol drinking of their co-workers, or whose health and safety were put at risk through accidents or close calls, although they are likely to be substantial.
"While our estimate of the cost to co-workers of alcohol use by heavily drinking colleagues is large, it may represent the tip of the iceberg."
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.
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