Sheffield leads over 50s, alcohol and the workplace pilot

19 Dec

Sheffield leads over 50s, alcohol and the workplace pilot

  • Local community organisation plays key role in national report and employers guide
  • Almost one third of older drinkers in the professional occupational class drink 5-7 days a week
  • A quarter of the professional occupational class aged 60-69 drink heavily – more than under 30s
  • Those retiring before 60 and after 75 are more likely to be high-risk drinkers

Sheffield community organisation Drink Wise, Age Well have lead the way in encouraging employers to help over 50s in employment or facing retirement to avoid serious alcohol problems in later life.

Their work contributed to a new report written by ILC-UK which highlights retirement as a ‘danger point’ for problem drinking, with recent retirees over 50 being more likely to drink every day. Additionally, those retiring before 60 are more likely to become a high-risk drinker, as are those working beyond the age of 75.

Drink Wise, Age Well Sheffield have been working to help local employers address a ‘blind spot’ by developing support for employers in helping preparing for retirement on emotional health issues, including alcohol.  They have been working closely in partnership with the Shaw Group as well as local union branches.

According to the Drink Wise, Age Well survey released earlier this year, of those people who drank more than they used to, 40% cited retirement as a reason for doing so.

For those over 50s still employed stress, boredom, lack of control over work and retirement worries all contribute to drinking more.

Other findings for the report include:

  • Nearly 30% of over 50s in the ‘professional’ occupational classes drink 5-7 days a week, the highest of any occupational class.
  • Almost a quarter of older groups in the highest professions drink more than their younger counterparts.
  • Alcohol problems can cost UK employers money in terms of workplace absence and lost productivity – around 7.3 billion a year.

Over 50s who have been out of work and recovered from an alcohol problem still face further barriers in getting back into work. Only 16% of employers said they would consider employing someone with a previous alcohol problem, leaving some of the UK’s most experienced workers who want to work unable to realise their potential.

The authors of the report call for employers to introduce measures to assist employees over 50 who might be struggling with an alcohol problem, such as counselling and effective workplace policies that treat alcohol issues like any other health issue.

For those into retirement, the report calls for GPs to factor in the effects of retirement when giving advice on reducing risk from alcohol. The report also calls for greater engagement from employers to staff pre and post-retirement. This includes social clubs and guidance on how to avoid alcohol becoming a problem once working life is over.

A guide for employers produced by Drink Wise, Age Well is available to download on the website.

Emma Wells, local manager for Drink Wise, Age Well Sheffield said: ‘older employees are a valuable asset to the workplace and bring experience and knowledge. As our population ages, it is important to ensure that the needs of an older workforce are considered and met. This includes preparation for retirement which addresses not just financial and practical issues, but looks at health, keeping active and maintaining a sense of purpose. Drink Wise, Age Well offers a range of activities in Sheffield which enable anyone aged over 50 to stay involved in their local communities and build new friendships, thus avoiding the pitfalls of isolation and potential increased alcohol use’.

David McCullough, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “Retirement is like a cliff edge and often older people go from having a busy schedule and colleagues to interact with, to days where they might not see anyone or even have a conversation on the phone. It doesn’t take long for loneliness to set in and drinking a little more than they should each day can quickly become the norm. It’s vital that people facing retirement or those recently retired, remain mentally and physically active and engaged in their community and we would urge employers to ensure they have the necessary support and guidance in place to help employees with what can be a very steep transition.”

Chris Ball, specialist adviser on the ageing workforce said: “Imagine the folly of installing valuable machinery or new systems in a workplace and then by neglect, allowing them to become unusable and out of date. No employer would do such a thing. The same goes for older workers. After a life time of working, many older workers can add experience, skills and knowledge that any employer should value. Used correctly, they bring crystalized life experience – the added element for success.

Andy Cullen, Learning Organiser, Unite Sheffield

Members of Unite have benefitted from the Drink Wise, Age Well project. Unite reps especially, have been given the information that may be shared with members and potential members linked to their personal wellbeing. I feel supporting such campaigns will educate Unite members to recognise the potential harm alcohol may cause in particular vulnerable groups, such as

the over 50’s. Increasing awareness of alcohol related issues in the workplace can only help towards healthy ageing.

The report is available to download here.

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