CBI’s new etiquette guide to booze and innuendo
The Confederation of British Industry has issued new rules around drinking and joking at its events as the crisis-hit business lobby group tries to recover from sexual misconduct allegations.
It faced an existential threat after details emerged about a toxic workplace culture that led to the sacking of Tony Danker, its director-general. His successor, Rain Newton-Smith, has vowed to reform the organisation, which claimed to speak for 190,000 businesses until it was hit by mass member defections in the wake of the scandal.
Now the CBI has introduced strict codes of conduct for staff to observe in the office and at networking events it hosts. These include ‘principles’ around alcohol consumption and drug use – which is banned – and creating a ‘safe and secure working environment’.
Reformer: Confederation of British Industry’s current director-general Rain Newton-Smith
One section reads: ‘We have a policy that sets out expectations for the consumption and misuse of drugs and alcohol, and we do not tolerate actions that will have a detrimental effect on our reputation, violate the law, impact the safety of others or cause inappropriate conduct.’
It includes ‘inappropriate physical contact, sexual attention or innuendo’ within its definition of harassment. Another section outlines how the group ‘will not tolerate bullying, harassment or sexist, racist, or exclusionary comments or jokes’. The CBI has also introduced clear ways to report a complaint if the ‘principles’ are breached.
A source close to the CBI told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Clearly lessons have been learnt and steps are being put in place to set behavioural expectations.
‘The code will make for awkward reading for many attendees.
‘Others will wonder why it is necessary to state the basics.’
The new rules have been drawn up in time for the CBI’s first series of in-person events since the scandal erupted. On Wednesday it hosts a round table discussion in Glasgow. More are planned for next month across London and Wales.
Danker was sacked in April after a junior colleague complained about ‘unwanted contact’ from him, which she regarded as sexual harassment. He denies the allegations.
It came amid a series of unrelated misconduct claims against other CBI staff – including two allegations of rape – that prompted members such as NatWest, John Lewis and Aviva to cut ties or suspend involvement with the group.
Newton-Smith has pledged to ‘rebuild’ the group. In June she received majority backing from members.
The CBI declined to comment.