The Lloyd’s of London insurance market has introduced a ban on its workers from drinking alcohol during the standard office hours of 9am to 5pm. And, according to reports some of its 800 workers are not happy at missing out on their traditional pint down the pub at lunchtime.
Working time alcohol bans originally started with local councils in Britain trying to correct the unfairness of its drivers and heavy machinery operators being banned from drinking alcohol during the day, while their fellow “white collar” office workers were not similarly affected. Likewise, the pro-multicultural move also prevented some minorities from being offended by the consumption of alcohol.
Following these councils, a swathe of companies realised that both discipline and performance sometimes suffered when employees came back to work after a “liquid” lunch. Now the 329-year-old Lloyd’s of London insurance market has followed with its own alcohol ban.
However, the ban does not affect underwriters who are not directly employed by the Lloyd’s of London Corporation. That means that while the typical lowly (and now crestfallen) Lloyd’s clerk cannot have a drink at lunch, an underwriter can. Mind you, perhaps the underwriters might soon need one. This was after a study by Oxford University predicted that insurance underwriters were one of the sets of professional workers most likely to be replaced in future by robotic computer systems.
Critics note that such alcohol bans are symptomatic of increasing controlling interference by employers in staff behaviour, amounting to authoritarianism. As it is, the Lloyd’s of London Corporation is under criticism itself for double standards as there is an “All Bar One” food and drink establishment on its iconic site in Leadenhall Market, which facilitates, and even encourages, lunchtime drinking.
Within the insurance market itself, there is relief that the ban does not directly affect many underwriters given that, etiquette aside, many insurance deals actually start at lunch. In truth, most of the boozy business lunch culture had died out by the 2000s – and this has not stopped business being done at lunchtime. The hard-drinking stereotypes of “boozy barrow boys” and “plastered posh public school types” have made way for more sober technocratic types such as actuaries, mathematical modellers, scientists and former engineers (especially in the space insurance class).
Meanwhile, the wilier insurance brokers operating on behalf of their clients (the insured) might also be relieved at the ban’s limitations. They sometimes wait for dozy underwriters to come back from alcohol-laden lunches before trying to pull a stroke against them with their low premium rates and dodgy policy conditions.
The need to keep a clear head in these negotiations has, of course, been demonstrated by the notably poor space risks that have sometimes been passed on to other classes in clever sleights of hand. (In)famously, a broker managed to pass off a Spacehab module carried on the Space Shuttle as a cheap-to-insure aircraft cargo risk. It was subsequently lost with the sadly fatal re-entry destruction of STS-107 Columbia space shuttle mission in 2003.
More recently, last year cargo underwriters were stung by the pre-launch explosive loss of Amos-6. They apparently had no idea that their payload was allowed to be atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a fully fuelled live firing test. Presumably this was in the small print.
Even a partial lunchtime alcohol ban might help Lloyd’s with its reputation after tales of raucously louche and decadent behaviour. These include press reports about amorous insurance couples “going for it” in the transparent glass outside lifts/elevators of the famous Richard Rodgers designed Lloyd’s building.
Those engaged in such activities apparently had to work fast at their attempts at “lift love” as the ride only takes about 10 seconds. By the way, it is best to avoid stopping the lift between floors as this tends to involve Lloyd’s – now sadly sober – security personnel.
No altimeter is required in these lifts/elevators to tell that you have reached “cloud nine”, but any lightning fast Lloyd’s lift lover might still need to find the right button in quick time. One that just might be needed in a hurry is on the controls of the English Electric Lightning fighter jet (see below).
By the way, don’t forget the V.P. sensitivity switch either (whatever that is?), nor the Flap Tank Contents one (best not ask).