The risks associated with work events that feature alcohol has seen City firms increasingly appoint individuals expected to remain sober so they can monitor their colleagues.
A number of incidents of heavy drinking, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment have seen some firms suffer with reputational problems and hit with heavy fines. For example, in March, Lloyds of London member Atrium Underwriters received a £1m fine after a “boys’ nights out”, in which senior staff participated in lewd behaviour.
This week, professional services giant PwC told the Mail it was encouraging event organisers to appoint designated “responsible individuals” to oversee the “wellbeing of attendees”. These workers would be asked to remain sober or drink only lightly.
Law firm Linklaters, professional services firm KPMG and accountant BDO are among other firms that in recent years have taken steps to reduce the risks of heavy drinking on work gatherings.
A PwC spokesman said: “We are committed to providing a safe, healthy and inclusive culture for all of our people and have clear policies and guidance in place for anyone organising and attending work social events either in or out of the office.
“This includes encouraging event organisers to appoint and share the details of dedicated responsible individuals to oversee the wellbeing of attendees and to act as a point of contact should any concerns arise.”
The risks of heavy drinking on nights out came into sharp focus as news emerged that a PwC auditor, Michael Brockie, has launched a £200,000 lawsuit against the firm after he suffered a severe head injury after taking part in a pub golf drinking game on a work night out in 2019.
According to the High Court submission seen by the Financial Times, workers on the night out in Reading were encouraged to down each drink in as few mouthfuls as possible to get the lowest score. Brockie was later discovered with the injury after becoming inebriated by 10pm. The 28-year-old, who continues to work for PwC, spent six months off work while he recovered.
Lawyers for the auditor say the manager who organised the event “failed to take reasonable care for the safety of co-workers and pressured people into attending the event, which saw staff told to visit nine bars and pubs in the town”.
Brockie claimed in the court papers that a similar event the year before made a “competitive virtue of excessive, rapid and prolonged consumption of alcohol.”
Court documents state that after the incident PwC cancelled the annual event.
PwC stated in response to Brockie’s case: “As a responsible employer we are committed to providing a safe, healthy and inclusive culture for all of our people. We also expect anyone attending social events to be responsible and to ensure their own safety and that of others.”