I travel a great deal in my job. In England everyone has a ‘pint’ with lunch. My company has a policy that prohibits reimbursing for alcohol. What should I do?
What you haven’t made clear is whether there is a company policy about drinking during working hours.
If company policy prohibits drinking during work hours, you are required to follow this policy regardless of where you are working. A no drinking policy means no drinking and it applies to you regardless of where you are working at the time. You can make any explanation that is comfortable to you or just follow it without saying a word. Either way your drinks should be limited to soft drinks, coffee, tea, juice, or water.
If the only policy is about paying for alcoholic beverages, you have more options. In this case, look closely at how much you want to fit in by having the ‘pint’ or how greatly you desire to drink the ‘pint’ in the first place. You basically have two choices, drink the ‘pint’ and pay for it out of your pocket. Or, order a non-alcoholic drink and be reimbursed. It’s not ethical to ask to have the receipt falsified, to submit other bogus expenses to make up for the amount spent, or to work around the policy in any way.
Finally, if you are responsible for taking customers to lunch, the situation changes slightly. I would start by explaining to your manager that the culture in England is different than in the US. That not only is it acceptable to have a ‘pint’ at lunch, it’s an expected feature of the lunch. Ask to see how to pursue getting an exemption to this rule while in England. However, if the company still declines to change its policy, it will fall to you as host, to explain to your guests that alcoholic purchases are not accepted by your company. Or better yet, locate local eateries that have good food but don’t serve alcohol.