July 16, 2024

Employees working overseas could be more prone to alcohol abuse

Employees travelling for work overseas could be more likely to abuse alcohol because they are susceptible to specific pressures, including stress, isolation and missing friends and family.

This was the warning issued to organisations this week by health and wellbeing intermediary Towergate Health & Protection in light of Alcohol Awareness Week, taking place until July 7.

The company said the event would be an ‘ideal opportunity’ to help tackle issues faced by overseas employees.

It told businesses that:

  • Alcohol may be used to integrate more easily and combat loneliness, isolation or pressures, particularly in a new role
  • Some cultures have also normalised after-work drinking parties, such as ‘nomikai’ in Japan
  • The Far East, Eastern Europe and Latin America are known for selling alcohol at low prices, which in turn increases its accessibility. A half-litre of beer is approximately 77p in China, 90p in Belarus and £1 in Columbia. The price in London, meanwhile, is £6.50
  • Regions that have previously banned alcohol are now changing tack, too. Saudi Arabia has recently announced that it will be opening a shop in Riyadh selling alcohol to non-Muslim expats for the first time in over 70 years. Plus, the UAE and Qatar now allow the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims over the age of 21 in hotels, clubs and bars
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year globally. It is a leading risk factor of premature mortality and disability among those aged 15 to 49, accounting for 10% of all deaths in the age group.

Towergate Health & Protection said it’s important for employees on business trips to be aware of the laws on alcohol in the country they are visiting. For example, the minimum age for buying alcohol differs in various countries and there can be rules on where and when alcohol can be consumed.

Employers are encouraged to provide health and wellbeing and employee assistance programmes, as well as access to a GP for regular check-ins. Interactive apps can also support healthy lifestyle choices.

Businesses are also advised to set a good example and positive culture around alcohol awareness, encouraging employees to drink safely and in moderation.

There should also be robust support for physical and mental health, as well as alcohol issues, said the company.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, said: “Alcohol and its misuse can be a big issue for overseas employees in particular and awareness of the added pressures they can face is an important starting point for employers as it will help them to provide the right kinds of support. Global employers need to be aware of the potential impact on medical claims for alcohol-related diseases or where alcohol may exacerbate other conditions.

“It’s good business practice to provide support and important to regularly check in with colleagues. I hope Alcohol Awareness Week will spur employers into at least making contact with their overseas employees and checking how they are getting on with the challenges of working abroad. If support programmes can also be put in place, then this will be a major positive in the fight against alcohol-related problems.”