Workers at London insurance market Lloyd’s have been told to behave during the Christmas party season, according to reports from the BBC. Chief executive John Neal has reportedly said that staff have been emailed warning them to be “particularly careful.”
The move by Lloyd’s comes after it vowed in September to tackle its male-dominated culture, following the rise of the me-too movement, and a survey which found that 8% of Lloyd’s staff said they had seen sexual harassment in the past 12 months.
It found that female workers had faced inappropriate comments, as well as physical attacks by male colleagues. This followed earlier complaints about excessive alcohol consumption and boorish behaviour during working hours.
The insurance sector has a long history of laddish culture, and most people working within UK insurance know the stories regarding the `glazed ring‘ email, or the Tokio Marine case where two execs were obliged to resign following incidents at a staff party. There is a wider question nowadays over the duty of care any insurance company or broker has when supplying alcohol to staff – your company may be held partially liable for incidents which follow the consumption of free booze.
Interestingly, a quarter of those surveyed at Lloyd’s said they had observed excessive consumption of alcohol at the marketplace during the past year, while 22% had seen people in the organisation “turn a blind eye” to inappropriate behaviour.
A spokesman for LLoyd’s told the BBC that: “The email message is part of our wider speaking-up campaign in which we have been clear about the standards of behaviour that we expect and our ongoing commitment to cultural change in the market.”
CALL THE PROSECCO POLICE, THE MD IS DANCING ON THE TABLES
But is the solution to the problem of potential harrassment claims having sober people at the parties to effectively police the behaviour of their colleagues? Maybe so. Accounting firm BDO will have sober chaperones at its Christmas gatherings, who will be responsible for dealing with emergencies and ensuring workers get home safely.
Price Waterhouse Cooper and KPMG have both also introduced a sober chaperone policy this year, according to press reports.
But if the boss decides he is going to finish that bottle of Krug, and a sober chaperone from a more junior department is standing next to him, how effective will that policing be in reality? The insurance industry has changed a great deal over the last few years, gone are the days when Munich Re rewarded its top salesmen with a prostitute, but there is still a male, most middle class male, dominance at the top level in many companies. That manly banter can soon escalate on a night out, once the fifth bottle of 1664 kicks in.
Perhaps the answer is to separate the social life that staff are perfectly entitled to have from the workplace, which sadly means an end to the traditional Christmas party. It might not be as much fun going out for the day to Center Parcs, half a Spa day, or go-karting, but daytime events are arguably easier to manage in terms of reputational – and financial – risk to the employer.