Office romances, what you need to know

office romances, office affairs, workplace romance, workplace, HR support, HR, employment law, policies, procedures, bullying, discrimination, harassment, employee handbook, pillow talk, private life, relationship breakdown

There are many ways to meet a partner but it seems that office romances are still a popular way of meeting ‘the one’. A recent survey found that 22% of people had engaged in an office romance, whilst a third admitted that they have had a crush on a fellow employee.

Office romances can seem harmless (and a fantastic source of gossip on a tea break) but they can lead to grievances and claims of unfair dismissal, discrimination, and sexual harassment. The rumour mill often causes resentment and disruption to productivity.

It is difficult to keep an office romance strictly personal and if the relationship breaks down, it can destroy the working relationship too. During and after the relationship, issues can find their way into the workplace and co-workers sometimes feel compelled to take sides.

So, as an employer, can you simply ban office romances? No, not really and this is not a feasible solution.  Cupid often gets his way despite what the Employee Handbook says! Whilst it may be perceived as unreasonable to interfere with an employee’s private life, you have a right to address an office relationship if it impacts on their working life.  The situation can be complicated if the relationship is between a senior employee and someone who is more junior to them in the organisation or one or both of the employees is in a trusted position with access to confidential information that the other person would not ordinarily be privy to e.g. In the HR or Accounts team pillow talk is a risk!

 

How you handle this sensitive scenario will vary depending on the circumstances.  There is no clear answer as to what you should do as an employer but a good starting point is to have a policy on Relationships at Work.  If you don’t have one, we can help you draft one for you.  We also recommend that you ensure that your policies relating to bullying, harassment and discrimination are robust enough to deal with any problems should they arise.
If you are faced with a situation like this and are not sure how to handle it, get in touch and we can walk you through how to handle affairs of the heart in the workplace. Email masa@yourhrlawyer.co.uk or call 0115 870 0150. For more information about our services click here

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