Lloyd’s of London, the specialist insurance provider, has announced an alcohol ban during the working hours of 9am and 5pm despite “the London market historically [having] a reputation for daytime drinking”. This comes after Lloyd’s discovered that “roughly half” of all their grievance and disciplinary cases over the last two years were related in some way to alcohol. Employees have been warned that those who fail to adhere to the new policy will face disciplinary action which could ultimately lead to their dismissal for gross misconduct.
Some employees have disputed what they see as a “change in the norm” and are indignant that they are seemingly not trusted to drink responsibly during the working day. Lloyd’s, however, have pointed out that “drinking alcohol affects individuals differently. A zero limit is therefore simpler [and] more consistent”. Another bone of contention is that the policy only applies to Lloyd’s staff, not the insurance brokers and underwriters who operate from the same building.
Although controversial amongst staff, Lloyd’s are within their rights to enforce a zero alcohol policy at work, particularly if they consider that the safety or productivity of their staff is being negatively affected. There is no contractual entitlement to drink alcohol during the working day and therefore it would not be considered a variation of the employment contract. Indeed, it has long been standard for staff handbooks to contain provisions that employees are not to consume alcohol on work premises during working hours, and this policy merely takes things one step further by imposing a blanket ban.
Lloyd’s have argued that the policy brings them in line with many firms in the market and it will be interesting to see if others follow suit.