Lloyd’s of London Booze Ban – a Tipple Too Far?

15/02/2017

Lloyd’s of London has introduced a booze ban between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. What are the possible repercussions for their employees if they decide to flout the new rules?

In a statement, the company confirmed that it had been considering the ban for some time – to bring into line the industry norms, and also in response to uncovering that half of grievance and disciplinary cases over the last two years were related to alcohol.

Other firms such as QBE have previously advised staff not to drink as opposed to an outright ban, leaving it to their managers to decide the most appropriate course of action.

Substance misuse and the law

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a duty to ensure a safe place for work and safe systems of work for their staff.  However, it also looks upon substance misuse which includes both alcohol and drugs (whether prescribed over the counter or controlled substances). Managing substance misuse at a workplace is also likely to engage the Data Protection Act 1998, for example in screening test results for drugs and/or alcohol and HR Records of how the employer have dealt with the worker.  Any results of any alcohol or drug test would amount to sensitive personal data concerning the individuals physical or mental health or condition. 

It is important that an employer has a clear policy in respect of drugs and/or alcohol. The purpose of any such policy is to increase awareness of the effects of alcohol and drugs misuse and to ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities regarding alcohol or drugs misuse and related problems. Staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem should be encouraged to seek help at an early stage and staff who have an alcohol or drug related problem affecting the work, are dealt with sympathetically, fairly and consistently.

The employers’ stance

It is up to an employer as to whether they take a zero alcohol tolerance approach to the workplace and work-related events, or to limit that to normal working day i.e. the approach taken by Lloyd’s of London.

Drinking alcohol whilst at work without authorisation or working under the influence of alcohol may be considered serious misconduct.

In any event, most employers expect an employee to demonstrate responsible behaviour at work, work related functions and work-related social events, and to act in a way that will not have a detrimental effect on the business’ reputation.  Employers expect employees to remain professional and fit for work at all times.

Managers should act to prevent excessive consumption of alcohol by any member of staff and should take steps to deal with any unacceptable conduct.  Such conduct may lead to disciplinary action.

If an employer believes that an employee has an alcohol problem, employers are advised to consider any contractual or non-contractual policy that it has in place.  An employer may wish to obtain a medical report and consideration as to whether an employee’s behaviour is indicative of an underlying disability.  An addiction to alcohol is not in itself a disability. There is no qualifying service at current for a disability discrimination claim and compensation isn’t capped so the employee should consider this point carefully.  If the employee does have a disability, then the employer will need to consider whether there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made and it will need to tread carefully in progressing with any dismissal.

More information

If you feel that you require legal assistance on any of the matters mentioned above, either as an employer or employee, please contact Alex Pearce in our Employment Law Team on alex.pearce@pinneytalfourd.co.uk or call 01708 229444 for advice.

This article was written by Alex Pearce, our Employment Law Associate at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. The law may have changed since this article was published. This article is based on the law as of February 2017.

15/02/2017

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