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When is a liquid lunch acceptable?

By Nick Easen for CNN

Some companies have a alcohol policy that applies to office hours.
Some companies have a alcohol policy that applies to office hours.

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(CNN) -- Will you be sipping alcohol over lunch in the run-up to the festive season? If the answer is yes, you are probably living in Britain.

Most Europeans think it is unacceptable to drink alcohol during office hours, whereas British workers say a little tipple is just fine.

"Make sure you know the company policy on drinking during office hours," said Joe Slavin, of career Web site Monster.

"If in doubt, err on the side of caution, and limit drinking to after hours."

Over half the 23,000 Europeans surveyed said it would be inappropriate to have an alcoholic drink during the working day, a sentiment echoed elsewhere.

"In Asia it's unusual to drink at lunchtime or indeed after office hours with clients," Dan Chavasse of Michael Page recruiters told CNN.

"However, in Australia, business lunches often revolve around a few glasses of wine, especially on Thursdays and Fridays."

Of 2,000 British workers surveyed, 46 percent said it was fine to imbibe one glass of wine or beer at lunchtime.

Yet alcohol is also eating away at the British working week.

In a separate survey by business advisory service Croner, 79 percent of UK corporations believe poor performance at work and increased sick leave is due to drinking.

Some companies in the UK still provide subsidized bars on their premises, a hangover from the city trader culture of the 80s, when excessive drinking went hand in hand with high stress.

Croner and other experts say it is good to keep tabs on the amount of sick leave employees take, even though there is reluctance from employers to get involved with staff personal problems.

Ironically social drinking could be good for your career.

A report in the Guardian newspaper from economists at Stirling University found that on average drinkers earn 17 percent more than workers who do not drink.

Even heavy drinkers fare well, they still earn five percent more than total abstainers.

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