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Read more articles in: Amanda Hyam, Blog, Employment Law

Have a concise policy on workplace romances and avoid legal problems

Valentine’s Day is a time when love is in the air. Flowers, chocolates and romance are the order of the day.

But for employers and their HR departments, it is a time for potential headaches because of workplace romantic relationships.

These can lead to conflicts of interest, favouritism, lack of transparency and embarrassment to staff.

Romantic relationships within the workplace are not illegal, but because they can blur the lines of professionalism at work, some employers may be concerned about the effect that these relationships can have on the workplace.

Should they be banned?

Although it may be tempting for employers to implement a complete office ban on romances, it could be:

  • Almost impossible to enforce
  • Extremely unpopular with the workforce
  • Potentially a breach of the human rights of the employees

What needs to be done

A clear and concise policy should be outlined and must spell out what is considered appropriate behaviour.

For example, employers can place a requirement upon any individuals entering a relationship to disclose this to their manager. That manager then has decisions to make based on the company policy or rules which should be written into employee contracts and any staff handbooks or similar documents.

Should they make individuals work separately to avoid any potential conflicts of interest? This can also help to avoid accusations of preferential treatment from other members of staff if the relationship involves a manager and someone on their team.

What happens when relationships fail?

Where problems are most likely to arise is if a relationship breaks down and can lead to sexual harassment complaints in the form of repeated unsolicited text messages and calls, starting malicious rumours, and unwanted physical contact, or making unfair work-related decisions such as turning an ex-partner down for promotions.

This further reinforces the fact that you should have a strong sexual harassment policy and clear procedures in place to deal with any such grievances.

Need help with dealing with romantic relationships in the workplace and implementing a fair policy? Contact us.

Amanda Hyam

Senior Associate – Dispute Resolution / Employment

I have specialised in Dispute Resolution, Civil Litigation and Employment law for more than 15 years.  I understand how daunting the prospect of litigation can be and because of this I am always available to discuss concerns.