Lloyd’s puts an end to boozy lunches for its staff

Nipping to the pub for a quick pint is not unusual in the Square Mile, especially for those in the insurance sector. The idea of business relations being built in the pub goes back a long way, and insurance is one of the industries where that comes into play more than most.

However, for staff at Lloyd’s of London, the notion of the boozy business lunch is no more. The insurance house has introduced a complete ban on drinking alcohol during daytime working hours for its staff. The rationale given for the policy was that ‘roughly half’ of its disciplinaries and grievances over the past year related to the misuse of alcohol.

The brokers and underwriters who do business in the Lloyd’s market will not be affected. But, as one might expect, many of Lloyd’s 800 staff are unhappy with the ban. One staff member posted on the company’s intranet “Will I be asked to go to bed earlier soon?” and many are reportedly calling the measure “heavy handed”.

Lloyd’s said in its memo that the ban “aligns us with many firms in the market” and, in a sense, that is true. Lloyd’s is not the first in the industry to rule out daytime drinking and the culture generally has, in any event, moved on a little from the boozy 3-hour lunches that once were typical.

One can see why Lloyd’s chose to implement the change – it emphasised in its memo its duty to be a responsible employer, and it is unsurprising that it has taken action if excessive drinking has been causing it problems.

That said, there certainly remains the argument that the decision to make the ban absolute was an overreaction. A single drink during the odd lunch is commonplace across many industries and is not a problem in and of itself; the measure does therefore seem slightly high-handed.

Some say it could also have repercussions for the business itself. Heather McGregor, writing in the Financial Times, made the point that personal relationships are key to deal-making in the market and that face-to-face interaction – most likely over a long lunch – is the best way to build them. It could be that the loss of that method of business development is felt by Lloyd’s down the line.

Whatever the impact the ban has on Lloyd’s during the day, one thing is certain – post-5pm is anyone’s game, so do not expect it to get any easier to get an after-work drink in Leadenhall’s watering holes.

Sarah Owbridge is a Senior Paralegal at leading employment law firm BDBF.